At a crossroad: how one Bangladeshi girl used technology as a springboard to empowerment
Five years ago, Fatema, a child maid for a middle class family, was called back to her village. Not to reunite with her family, as she first thought, but to be married.
“My happiness turned to horror, as I realised I’d been brought back to be married to a man who was 25 years old”.
Current figures show that 52% of girls under 18 in Bangladesh are girl brides – one of the highest rates in the world.
But Fatema did not end up as a number in this statistic.
At the wedding ceremony, just as the vows were about to be taken, a representative from a local nonprofit that teaches digital skills to empower rural girls, intervened and snatched her away.
“I had never been to school, so I started my education by learning digital skills.” Through learning the basics of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and how to apply these to skills for literacy, numeracy, CVs and letter writing, Fatema pieced together her own life curriculum driven by the instinct that this was the way out of a life of enslavement.
The nonprofit that saved her, Aashar Alo Patshala, soon got national attention for their brave act. Aashar Alo Patshala has become part of the biggest youth network in Bangladesh, Young Bangla, counting over 70,000 members across 200 partner organisations. Young Bangla’s motto, “Connecting the dots”, underlines the power that comes from connecting digital skills with literacy, education and networking amongst young people.
Fatema has taken a similar route by getting connected to others like her. With the strength and confidence to fight against four more attempts to marry her early, she was able to return to school to finish her secondary education.
Converting a traumatic event into a well of strength to fight for girls’ rights, Fatema now teaches digital literacy to girls in her village. Taking her role further, she has become an advocate and campaigner against child marriage in Bangladesh.
“Learning technology isn’t an end in itself but a means to get educated and save myself from traditions that belong in the past. My goal is now to educate girls like me to avoid early marriage.”
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