The story began when a little schoolgirl from a sleepy southwestern Bangladeshi village fought with immense courage against the patriarchy to prevent her own marriage. That girl, Hira Parvin, now an undergrad student, has since been engaged in a relentless fight against child marriage, seen as the biggest social curse in Bangladesh now.
In Parvin’s village Jalalpur, located in the southwestern district of Satkhira, widespread illiteracy has meant that the lives of the locals are governed by superstitions and prejudices. As a result, child marriage and violence against women are also very common.
In 2012, Parvin founded “Jagaran Club”, a youth-led social organization, along with some like-minded and energetic local youth, with the primary objective of spreading awareness against child marriage and violence against woman.
“My family was about to get me married when I was in secondary school. My mother, however, wasn’t in favor of that decision. She helped me prevent the catastrophe,” said Parvin.
The primary activities of Jagaran club include door-to-door campaign and yard meeting to raise awareness at the family level against the ill consequences of early marriage. They also work to sensitize people as a medium to prevent violence against women.
“In our society, girls are severely neglected. They are often seen as burdens and parents think that they would be relieved if they can get their girl married at the earliest. But I strongly believe that I am an asset to the society, not a burden; in fact, no girl is,” said Parvin.
In five years, Jagaran Club, which is run primarily on the subscription of its members, has spread its activities to a number of upalizas in Satkhira district. The members now also work to encourage guardians to send their dropout children, especially girl children, back to school. They have recently added health awareness programs in their repertoire as well.
In 2017, the organization won the Joy Bangla Youth Award in the community development category for its outstanding contribution in preventing child marriage and violence against women.
“People are getting to know the work of Jagaran Club. Jagaran means social awakening and since we got the award from Young Bangla, there has been a social awakening about the work that we do,” said Walid Hossain, vice-president of Jagaran Club.
The short-term goal of the organization now is to spread its activities to every upazila in Satkhira district. In the long run, Jagaran Club wants so build a strong network with other like-minded organizations from the Young Bangla platform to work nationally to prevent child marriage.