Shorna Shahida Akter – Wedding Busters


I am Shorna from Bangladesh. At first I give thanks to the Norweigan government and Plan Norge. I give thanks to be here in Norway. I give thanks to Norweigan Nobel Committee for event of Peace Prize for giving it to Malala for doing more for girl’s education. Also thanks Oslo Freedom Forum Committee. This is Thea, she is twelve years old and she is going to marry Geir, 37 years old. She is Norway’s first child bride. This is fake. But my story is real. I am the fourth daughter of my family. Fourteen years old, I was forced to marry. My father married a second wife in 2005. And he started living in another house, separated from our family. We got economic problems. My mother could not afford our schooling. Then my family decided to arrange marriage for me. I was starting grade nine only. I was helpless and scared. I was afraid, because maybe I could die in childbirth. And I know that may young girls were treated very bad by their older husbands. I wanted to study, I was determined to continue my studies. And my results were good enough. Now my dream was crushed. The pressure was hard. I told my family that it was wrong to marry a child. At this time, I had been a member of Plan Bangladesh children organization and here I had learned about child rights child protection and the harm of child marriage. I also knew that child marriage is a crucial and illegal crime. I told my mother that I would afford my schooling by tutoring. I also got support from my little sisters and my brother-in-laws. Finally I convinced them. My mother decided not to arrange marriage for me. In Bangladesh, 66 % of the girls married before 18 years. So I felt very lucky that I managed to stop my child marriage. Now I am dedicated to raise awareness of child marriage and to stop forced marriages. No girl should experience forced marriage. I am also a member of Plan Bangladesh child protection group and a member of Plan’s girls youth club to stop child marriage, called Wedding Busters. When I get information about a girl that is forced to marry I first discuss the news with the members of girl’s youth club and then I discuss the news with community members. Later all of us visit the girl’s house to convince their family. I have saved four girls, Jasmin, Juenna, Mimi and Tanya, from forced marriage. Now the girls are continuing their school and college. Let me show you a film about how we work in Wedding Busters. Wedding Busters is all over Bangladesh, We have stopped child marriage in more than 90 places and today these places are child marriage free zones. I started my journey as a child advocate at twelve years old. As you saw in the film, 66% of girls are married before 18 years in our country. But a girl is not ready to give birth as a child. Both mother and child have an increased risk to die. If a girl has higher education she can get a good job and live a more prosperous life. Mature women also gets healthier children and she can help her children to get education. Education is very strongly associated with child marriage because 86 % of un-educated girls marry before 18. Only 26% of girls are married below 18 years who have secondary or higher education. I therefore think that secondary education is the foundation of building a healthy life and it also plays an important role in reducing child marriage. Today I am twenty years old and I am a student of honors, first year. I work as a tutor in a pre-school and a part time teacher in a private school and I also work with the poorer students in my village. My future plan is to become a social worker, and help other children from being forced to marry. My sub-district gave me an award for my social work and to stop child marriage. I think the method of wedding busters works very well. It will help Bangladesh to get rid of child marriage in maybe ten to twenty years I hope. I am happy when I think of my future plans, but it could have been a world of blight slavery. That’s why I will do everything to stop child marriage. That’s all, thank you everyone.

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