Surviving Childbirth as a Child Bride

I was 13 when I got married. I told my family I didn’t want to get married so young…everyone forced me.”

In Bangladesh, nearly 1 in 5 girls are married before they turn 15. What drives this harmful tradition? Unequal gender norms and poverty.

“At home, my stepmother had stopped feeding me,” Tania says softly. “It was torture. She wanted me out of our house. Marriage was the way to do it.”

Bangladesh-woman-baby-TaniaTania married an 18-year-old mechanic. She moved into a small rental home with him and his parents. Soon she was pregnant.

“When I found out, I was scared,” Tania says. “I knew nothing about pregnancy and had no one to talk to. My husband wouldn’t talk to me. My older relatives wouldn’t share anything with me. When I asked, they sent me away.”

Tania’s future was not hers to choose. She was socially and economically isolated. Education and employment were out of her reach. And dying from childbirth was a real danger. She needed help.

A community health worker trained by Pathfinder visited Tania in her home, sharing lifesaving information about maternal and newborn care. Doctors and nurses at a Pathfinder-supported health center gave Tania quality antenatal care, including free vitamins and counseling on nutrition when it was clear she was dangerously malnourished.

And after Tania survived the birth of her daughter, Shuhana, we continued to defend her rights.

“I only want two children,” says Tania, “with at least five years between them. But my husband and mother-in-law refused to let me use contraception. So [a Pathfinder-trained support group leader] took me and my mother-in-law to the clinic to find out what’s good about spacing your pregnancies.”

It worked. Her family was convinced.

“I take pills regularly now,” says Tania, cradling her little girl in her arms. “I am not worried about pregnancy anymore.”

Today feels like the hottest day of the year and it doesn’t matter. Whenever Shuhana cries, Tania hugs her protectively.

“I want my daughter to go to school…to be independent.”

Tania dreams through her daughter. And now those dreams are closer to reality.

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