The following blog post (originally published on WVI.org) was written by 15-year-old Samia, a Bangladeshi member of World Vision’s Young Leaders Network, a program designed to empower young people ages 12 to 17 to make their voices heard in the global campaign to end violence against children and speak out for children’s rights.
Samia pursues change by engaging with her peers and speaking out about children’s rights and protection. She dreams of a world free from child marriage, child labor, and all forms of violence against children.
I am a Young Leader and a member of the Child Forum Ashar Alo, which means “Hope of Light.” I am from Bangladesh, a place of natural beauty; it’s full of rivers and has the largest mangrove forest in the world. I believe that many of you have heard about it. However, apart from all the wonderful things, we have many problems such as poverty, child marriage, child labor, and both physical and emotional violence against children. For this reason, many girls in my country cannot get their rights and suffer every day.
In our Child Forum, we come together to help those children, especially girls, because in our society girls are still left behind, and they are vulnerable to superstition and many forms of abuse. Many girls are unable to enjoy their rights as human beings. For example, in my country the rate of child marriage is 52.3 percent, and 72.6 percent of women who have ever been married have experienced some type of partner violence. These numbers are very high and terrible for any country and society.
If we give people knowledge, they will understand what is right and what is wrong, and hopefully they will end all forms of violence.
These are big problems in our country, but for me, the main issue is the lack of protection because of illiteracy and the cultural beliefs that maintain and accept violence against girls as a regular thing. However, besides old traditions that support violence and child marriage, many parents feel they have to marry off their children due to poverty.
Cultural beliefs, illiteracy, and lack of knowledge cannot be an excuse anymore to justify violence. If we give people knowledge, they will understand what is right and what is wrong, and hopefully they will end all forms of violence. Luckily, my parents are conscious that violence against girls and child marriage is a problem because they have learned that these things have a negative impact on children’s lives. I shared my learning with them, and they understood.
But many parents do not understand this problem. They think girls are born to do household work and if they get married early, they can be happy in life. Many parents of my friends believe in that way.
Speaking out for all children’s rights
Here I want to say that everyone is equal; girls and boys are the same. I firmly believe that we, the girls, can equally contribute to society and, together with boys, we can end violence against children. But we need encouragement from the people around us. Sadly, all over the world, girls are prevented and discouraged from talking and making their voices heard. In our community, people think that girls are a burden. This is not right!
We, girls, can do many things to change the world and change the attitudes of society, and this is what we are doing today in our Child Forum. This is the reason why I am here today writing this blog. I am here to show my determination to work together in ending child marriage and all forms of violence against girls. My dream is to see our world free from child marriage, free from child labor, and free from all forms of violence against children.
Update: Good news! The Ending Violence Against Children Resolution passed in the House of Representatives on March 3, 2020. Let’s keep progress going by asking the Senate to follow suit! Ask your senator to support the bill to address, prevent, and end violence against children.