From Plan International
Nilima doing her school work at home
In a dimly-lit room, Nilima prepares for her examination, with a hand-written poster stuck to the fence. The poster says, “Challenge Nilima – discipline, dedication, determination”. This poster is just one of the many examples of Nilima’s determination to succeed.
It was this resolve that stopped her from becoming a child bride. Coming from an extremely poor family in Bangladesh, pursuing an education has always been a challenge for Nilima. Her father, a folk singer, was the only wage earner in the family and Nilima’s education was a burden for him. Unable to bear the costs, Nilima’s father decided to marry her off at the age of 14.
Nilima sewing a dress to earn enough money to continue her education
“Protesting the decision, I shaved my head and became bald. I knew no one would marry a bald girl”, explains Nilima, who is fully aware of the consequences of child marriage as she is a member of a children’s organisation and a young women’s forum supported by Plan International.
The marriage was called off but the pressure of marriage did not subside. Eventually, Nilima convinced her parents to not get her married if she paid her own expanses. She started working as maid in private households and used the money to pay her school tuition fees.
“Without having any private tuition, I achieved great grades in all my exams. My father was disappointed as he thought that if I failed he would be able to pressurise me into marriage”.
Nilima’s father decided to marry her off at the age of 14
Thanks to her good results Nilima was able to continue her education and is now studying for a Bachelor in Arts degree from her local college.
A typical day for Nilima starts at 5 in the morning. From 5 am to 8 am Nilima gives private tuition classes to primary level students. She then spends the rest of the morning working as a tailor.
Nilima received tailoring training and a sewing machine from Plan International and has started her own tailoring business. She makes dresses and bags and sells them to local shops. In the afternoon, Nilima runs a small shop which sells betel leaves and cigarettes. Her long day ends with studying and preparing for exams.
“I do not have any free time. I am always too busy. When I do have some occasional free time I write poems and songs and listen to music”.
Nilima standing in the doorway of her home
Nilima is a member of a savings group run by an NGO and hopes that: “In 2017 I will buy an auto-rickshaw for my brothers, so they can earn money by driving it and will contribute more to the family”.
Sitting beside her sick father, Nilima, hopes for a better future, “I want to become a school teacher”, she says with conviction.
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We believe in the power and potential of every child. But this is often suppressed by poverty, violence, exclusion and discrimination. And it’s girls who are most affected. Working together with children, young people, our supporters and partners, we strive for a just world, tackling the root causes of the challenges facing girls and all vulnerable children.
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Article and photos from Plan International