Shampa wants to be a banker when she grows up. She’s studying commerce in school and it’s her strong suit.

But she’s worried that she’ll never be able to realise her dream. Less than a year ago, her father, a labourer and the family’s primary breadwinner, had a debilitating accident that turned Shampa's world upside down.
While the family was still reeling from the catastrophe, Shampa went to stay with her aunt, who had a solution. At 15 years old, Shampa would be married.
“If I were a boy they would not have considered
marrying me off…I could have started
doing some job and supported my family.”
Although primary school tuition is free in Bangladesh, making it through the secondary school system requires a slew of unofficial costs like tutoring and additional textbooks. And for the very poorest, attending school comes with the opportunity cost of lost income from work.

“Baba and Ma couldn’t afford the expense of my education”, Shampa explains between tears. “So they thought that one less family member would help – it would make things easier.”

But Shampa refused to cooperate.
Girl sits on rooftop looking out at city Girl sits on rooftop looking out at city
Girl sits on rooftop looking out at city

15 million girls will be married too early this year

Global Parents help UNICEF reach girls at risk of child marriage every day, and to help girls who have already been wed.


Determined to finish her education, she enlisted the support of a local ‘adolescent club’, a group of youth activists who have been organising for greater government accountability and an end to child marriage. All Shampa had to do was say the word and the group sprang into action, arriving at her parents’ doorstep to discuss the risks of early marriage.

They explained that early pregnancy is associated with higher mortality rates for both mother and baby, that Shampa would be forced to spend her days doing household chores and that she would not be able to complete her education. They argued that if Shampa were to finish school, she would be in a better position to earn and to support the family in the future.

Finally – and this is what Shampa suspects did the trick – they reminded her parents that marriage before 18 is illegal in Bangladesh and that this law is enforced.
“In the end, her aunt’s scheme did not
come to pass. Still, the experience
rattled Shampa. “Even now”, she says,
“when I recall those days, I get scared.”
The risk of child marriage has still not completely passed for Shampa. Her parents have committed to supporting her through the end of the school year so that she can get her secondary school certificate. After then, she doesn’t know what the future holds.
With the help of her local adolescent group, Shampa was able to convince her parents early marriage was a bad idea. © UNICEF/UN016313/Gilbertson VII Photo

For all girls like Shampa

Every day, 41,000 girls are married as children but Shampa’s story shows us that change is possible

With the support of our Global Parents UNICEF is working to let girls be girls - to prevent early marriages and to help girls who have already been wed. In Bangladesh, we're funding the brilliant work of local youth groups, we're educating parents on the dangers of child marriage and we're strengthening the laws that establish 18 as the minimum age of marriage.

You can support this and all of UNICEF's work to protect the rights of children by becoming a Global Parent today. Your monthly gifts will help to protect children from early marriage, child labour and exploitation, and to deliver lifesaving water, health and nutrition supplies wherever the need is greatest.