October 11 is International Day of the Girl, and with this year’s theme focusing on ‘My voice, our equal future’, we have more than 100 girls living in The Sreepur Village that can relate to this.
Here is the voice of one of our girls and here’s how The Sreepur Village empowers girls with an equal future. Please note that names have been changed for child protection and security reasons.
“I am Rima Akter and I am 15 years old. I come from the North East of Bangladesh.
I have been living in The Sreepur Village since 2018 along with my mother and younger brother and sister. In 2015 when my father died, my family members and relatives stopped my studies but made sure that my younger brother was able to continue his school education. I spent my whole time doing household activities and my mother was a house maid for other families. As soon as I arrived at The Sreepur Village, I was able to resume my studies.
Alongside my studies, I am learning tailoring and basic computer training. If I can complete this training, then next year when I am 16 and re-integrated back into my community, I will be able to get involved in income generating work. However, it is well known in my community that us ‘girls’ are not allowed to have such roles or be skilled in anything!
Our families always allow boys to lead the family. In The Sreepur Village, enrolling in different kinds of training has empowered me to have confidence, try something new and have the skills that will enable me to earn a living in later life and make a contribution to my family.
In our community, girls spend their leisure time by doing household activities and we never get a chance to play games like boys do. In The Sreepur Village, I play cricket as well as various other indoor and outdoor games.
At my age, and in my community, most of my friends have already got married which, if I never came to Sreepur, the same could easily have happened to me. Child marriage and abuse is very difficult to avoid. Even our families recognise us as a burden to them.
The Sreepur Village gives us lessons on the disadvantages of child marriage and I am now confident in how to take measures against child marriage. Hopefully, when I return to my community I will try to pass on what I have learnt so that my friends can also have a voice to stand up against this and their parents, creating awareness on early marriage.
Compared with boys, being a girl in Bangladesh also means we are deprived of medical care, good hygiene and sufficient nutrition. The Sreepur Clinical team have given us lessons on good hygiene and nutrition; like washing hands, daily showering, brushing our teeth regularly and how to maintain a healthy balanced diet.
At The Sreepur Village they also conduct training on Child Rights and Protection, from which I have learnt about sexual abuse which is one of the most common and harmful types of violence here in Bangladesh. We have lessons on what is sexual abuse and how to say no to any sexual abuse and if it does occur, then how to tell a parent or relative.
I owe my life to The Sreepur Village, if I hadn’t come here in 2018, I don’t know where I would be or let alone who with. It is because of The Sreepur Village and all the life-saving services they provide from healthcare and education to nutrition and training in a number of invaluable skills, that I can confidently say I have been given hope for a brighter and more equal future and I will do everything I can to empower other girls with the same voice I have been given.
In its 31st year, The Sreepur Village continues to be the only charity in Bangladesh to not allow poverty to tear children from their mothers and in doing so provides more destitute mothers and their vulnerable children with a place they can call home. For three years, women and children like Rima will be cared for and empowered with the new skills that will see them with ‘a voice and an equal future’.
If you would like to donate to The Sreepur Village charity, then please click here.
Life can sometimes throw unimaginable challenges at us, but it's the human spirit's resilience and determination that can lead to remarkable stories of triumph.
Lia's life is a testament to this spirit, marked by adversity, courage, and ultimate success. Lia's story draws parallels to other stories of perseverance, and highlights the crucial role of organisations like Sreepur Village in transforming lives.
Out of the blue, at the tender age of 13, Chia found herself sitting on a bridal stage, about to marry a man who was 35 years old. Her parents had arranged the match, finding the man from their nearby locality in Bhairab.
He was a small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) businessman who occasionally sold vegetables and fruits on the street. Chia's aspirations and youthful dreams were abruptly interrupted by this sudden marriage. Instead of books, she found herself with kitchen utensils in her hands. She went from feeling like a princess to becoming a servant overnight.