Meet Dola, the Almost Child Bride

Vision News , December 2021      5 min read

 

World Children’s Day, celebrated annually on 20 November, is an occasion to advocate, promote and celebrate children’s rights.

 

However, despite making progress in recent decades, millions of children are still living with their basic rights denied. COVID-19 has further stripped them of their rights, stealing their childhoods and making them vulnerable to abuse, exploitation and violence.

 

At World Vision, we see children as agents of transformation. We teach them about their rights, equip them with the skills and confidence to speak up for themselves, and create space and opportunities for them to reach their fullest potential.

Dola, from almost a child bride to warrior against child marriage

 

Dola was only 12 when her community members insisted that she be married off. But her mother turned them away, determined to keep Dola in school because she didn’t want Dola to share the same fate as she did.

 

At the tender age of 13, Dola’s mother was married to a man eight years older. “My mother dreamed of becoming a banker but her parents forced her to get married.” Many poor families fear they can’t provide for their children’s basic needs and safety, and believed child marriage is a way of protecting their daughters. Soon after, Dola’s mother was pregnant and had to manage her household. “She also faced physical and mental violence from her husband,” Dola continued.

 

Inspired by her mother’s experience, Dola has been advocating with World Vision to end child marriage in Bangladesh since she was 10. She started as an active participant of the child forum, a platform that educates children and gives them encouragement to speak up about issues affecting them to community leaders and the local government. 

Not long after, Dola became one of several World Vision Young Leaders who works to raise awareness about child marriage and inform children of their rights. “I really love my role. We, as children, engage in actions to end child marriage because we know other children’s pain and how much they suffer.” When a classmate is in danger of child marriage, she and her group of young activists spring into action. Together, they have stopped more than 600 child marriages.

In 2019, Dola visited the United Nations in Geneva to speak on behalf of girls. “It was one of the most memorable times of my life,” she said. “I saw that there are lots of opportunities to speak about your own rights, and to raise awareness.”

 

Even during the pandemic, Dola continues to fight against child marriage. She advocates for it through social media and has big plans for the future. “I want to become a journalist.” She also wants to create an app “where anyone can report child marriage.” She is determined to show that girls are not a burden to their families and they can achieve their dreams!

 

Dola’s story is an example that when children are empowered to enjoy their rights, they can become a powerful force for change.

 

Commemorate Children’s Day by playing an active part in ensuring that children can exercise their rights! Here is how: 

 

  • If you’re a parent or teacher, help your children know their rights. Learn more here.
  • Report any cases of concern to Talian Kasih 15999, a 24-hour hotline for those seeking help regarding welfare, abuse, reproductive health and abandoned babies.
  • Host a Child Protection Workshop with us! We organise workshops for all age groups, from kindergarten children to office workers.
  • Donate to the Advocacy Fund. Your giving will be used to further child protection efforts in Malaysia and beyond.

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