Mitsuia, a youth activist of Girls Advocacy Alliance (GAA), highlights how equal opportunities can ensure growth and safety for young girls
My parents are human rights activists, so I learned the significance of gender equality and women’s empowerment at an early age.
“You’re a girl, you can’t do this, you have to do that” is something I never grew up hearing from my family. But after growing up, I learned that not every family was like mine. In far too many cases, families impose their decisions upon girls, which more than often leads to catastrophe.
One of my HSC classmates got married right after I enrolled for college. It was hard to believe that someone my age was getting married to a stranger without her consent.
When I gathered up the courage to ask her mother why she was rushed into marriage, I was told that it was because she was too pretty to keep at home, her costs couldn’t be borne, the groom was a perfect gentleman who had promised to continue her education.
In a cruel and not entirely unexpected turn of events, she was never enrolled into college. She suffered physical and mental abuse at the hands of her husband and his mother. The constant abuse took a toll on her, and she gave birth to a disabled child.
All that abuse affected her health, and instead of sympathy, it only garnered more cruelty.
In a twist of the knife, she came to learn that her husband had been married before and maintained an extramarital affair. The psychological trauma forced her to move back in with her mother with the infant.
Even today, far too many girls continue to be abused by their families. They are stripped of their opinions and consent and treated as subhuman, a burden on the family.
She could have studied and gotten a job and look after her mother? She could have been independent, not housebroken.
We must ensure gender equality and women’s empowerment if we want to eliminate this from happening to any other girls.
Families that want to let their daughters work are concerned about safety. We live in a society where a young woman can hardly be in public without being fearful of sexual harassment.
This is what compels families to confine girls to their homes. We must all do our part in changing the perspective, so that the world is just as safe for women as it is for men.
This article has been published under special arrangement as part of a partnership with Plan International Bangladesh