Because I am a Girl - #endchildmarriage
Today I will tell you a story of two lives, of a woman and a girl, at the same stage in their lives, about to get married. One in London, UK, and one in Dhaka, Bangladesh. It will all make sense at the end of the post, if you read both stories till the end.
I was mid-way through my Masters degree when we decided to get married. We had gotten engaged years before and it felt like it was finally the right time.
In May I was studying for my final exams, flipping through wedding magazines, looking for that perfect wedding dress, and deciding what menu options we would choose. There were theme colours to come up with and invitations to send. My dissertation was due at the end of the summer, I would graduate, I was going to get married, and go on a honeymoon. I could feel it - a wonderful summer was awaiting me.
I enjoyed school, especially maths, which was my favorite subject. But in 8th grade, I was suddenly told by my parents that I had to quit. I had only two years left before I was due to finish – I did not want to leave school! I’d dreamed of becoming a teacher so that I could give others the opportunity to learn.
It was terrible for me to have to sit inside and watch my friends going to school. But I did not complain and did what my parents told me.
It was all so exciting. My mother-in-law made the wedding dress for me based on the design I came up with. Me and my fiance set up a wedding gift list at John Lewis and started planning our honeymoon. We were going to get married in my home country, in my local church, and go and have a wedding reception at a nearby hotel.
It was a busy time, and we were feeling stressed, but also looking forward to the amazing day we were about to experience. I was a little bit nervous of how it would all go, but also excited and happy to finally wed.
I think it was four or five days after I left school that my grandmother told me what really was going on. I was shocked and completely devastated. Marry? Me? But I said nothing to her.
I was very scared. I was nervous about what to expect – especially about my in-laws. How would I relate to them? What would they expect from me?
I didn’t meet my husband before the wedding, but they said he was a good man. He had a job and was not one of those men who just hang around and do nothing all day. But knowing this about him did not really make it easier. All I thought about was the freedom that I would lose. Leading up to the wedding, I sat at home and did nothing but cry.
My wedding day
In July we got married. During the ceremony the church choir sang, and we held candles in our hands. The church was beautiful, with golden decorations and paintings, and after the priest declared us man and woman we kissed in front of the altar.
When I was officially a married woman, I couldn't contain my smile. It was the happiest day of my life. Everyone was happy and smiling and having fun. I was the centre of attention and the whole day I was smiling and my cheeks felt sore. My husband looked at me every once in a while with a smile on his face, almost as if to say this is so amazing.
After the party we went up to our honeymoon suite the scenery was beautiful and the apartment luxurious. There were chocolates left for us, and we ate them. The champagne we had was drunk during the party, but it didn't matter - we had had plenty of bubbles the whole day.
Six days later I was married. During the ceremony, I washed, dressed and had mint leaves placed in my mouth. The others danced but I just stood there. When I was officially a married woman, I cried.
During the party, while the others ate, my husband and I were brought into the house for the official part of the wedding. This was the first time I saw him. I looked over at him and wondered if I would live up to his expectations. We said nothing to each other. The first time we were alone together was the wedding night. The first words he said to me were to tell me to stop crying.
The next night he had sex with me for the first time. I woke up in the morning and felt absolutely terrible. I took a long shower. I cried while I was thinking about what my life would be now. I mourned for my freedom that was gone and was sad to have lost the life I had lived until now.
Pregnancy and giving birth
After we had been married for a year and a bit we decided it was time for a new addition in our family. We planned and considered, and calculated when the best time to have a baby would be. It wasn't long until I got pregnant, and was incredibly happy to grow another life inside me.
My pregnancy was easy. I exercised as much as I could, went to work normally, even if I was getting quite tired. I felt well and enjoyed having a pregnancy belly.
My pregnancy went on relatively uneventfully. There were two nights I stayed in the hospital, just in case, but they ended up being false alarms. Two weeks overdue I went in for an induction, and although the birth was difficult and we ended staying in the hospitals several days, we got through it. I felt happy to go back home with my new baby, to finally start our life as a family of three.
I knew nothing at the time about how to become pregnant. And I knew nothing when a few months later I suddenly missed my period. I told my sister, who sat me down and told me about being pregnant and what that meant. I felt very sick; I was dizzy and threw up all the time. And I could not eat.
I had a difficult pregnancy and was sick a lot with a lot of pain. The pain was absolutely terrible, and I spent a fortune on going to the doctor, although I was lucky to even be able to visit a doctor.
Towards the end of the pregnancy the baby stopped moving. When I had not felt any signs of life in two days, my mother took me to the hospital. There, I got a bit of a shock. It turned out that there was no amniotic fluid left. I was told that if I give birth at home now, neither I nor the child would survive. This was scary for me to hear. The reality was brutal.
I told my husband that both the baby and I could die. He was very worried. He said he would not lose us, so he took me to the hospital. We were told that there was a danger that either just me, or only the child would survive. Thoughts raged in my head. There was no point for a child to live without his mother and there was no point for me to live without my baby. That's what I thought. I told the doctor it was best if God took both of us.
Habiba was born by caesarean section at the hospital that day, and thank God, we both survived.
I am looking forward to my future. After my maternity leave I started work in a new place, and have now been looking for opportunities for a promotion. I am a mother, and I hope I can influence my daughter's life for the better. I want her to know she is capable and can achieve anything she puts her mind and effort in. Just like the way my parents did for me.
I know she is privileged to be born in UK and I know the whole world will be her oyster. I want her to be the best she can be, and achieve what she considers the most important thing in her life. And I know her father feels the same way.
I have become accustomed to my new life. I have my duties as a wife and mother. But I worry a lot. I worry about money, my husband, my child and my chores but most of all I worry that my own daughter will also one day be married off early.
As a mother, I hope that I can influence my daughter's life, so she should not have to experience what I had to go through. I want to spread the message that child marriage must be stopped and tell people about the consequences for young brides. I might have died on the day I gave birth. No one deserves to go through what I experienced. More fathers need to know this so they do not marry off their daughters early.
I dream that one day I can be a respected adult in local society. I hope we do not have to be poor anymore and that we can have a good life. But to complete school? That dream is long gone.
My name is Sadia and I was a child bride. I’m now 16 years old.
I was married at 14. My husband, Sumon, is four years older. Together we have an 8-month-old daughter, Habiba. My husband is a farmer. I didn’t know him before we were married; I had never seen him before.
My name is Sanna and I was free to choose who I marry. I'm now 31. I was married at 27. My husband is the same age as I am, and we have a 20-month old daughter together. We met in 2006, and we knew each other for five years before getting married.
I am a Plan Digital Ambassador and chose to write this post to support the Plan UK campaign against child marriage. Child marriage is not simply just about early arranged marriage - girls often end up with no rights of their own, experience violence, lack education and have serious health implications from having children when they are still essentially children themselves. Every two seconds another girl is forced or coerced into marriage, and every year 70,000 girls die in labour because their bodies aren't ready for childbirth. Plan is campaigning against child marriage, and seeking support to end child marriage. Join if you can, even if it is to raise awareness, or you can donate too.
You can read Sadia's full story on Plan UK site and life stories from other girls as well.
If you read mine and Sadia's story, what did you think when you got to the end of this post? Have you ever heard of the consequences of child marriage before?