VIDEO: Young brides speak out against child marriage

Mary Beth Powers of Save the Children shares a special story for International Women’s Day.

Whenever I travel to Bangladesh, I can’t help but imagine how it would be for my 12-year-old daughter to grow up there instead of in suburban New York.

My daughter is still a child, barely an adolescent. But in Bangladesh, plans for her marriage might be well underway by now, her education nearing its end.

The shy and fleeting faces of Bangladeshi girls have made such an impression on me during the 20 years I’ve been traveling to Bangladesh for public health work. That’s been the case even though girls in rural areas were barely seen and never heard –- especially in those early years.

But increasingly, things are changing for girls. It’s extremely exciting. Imagine the full potential of half population being unleashed!

Check out this video of Shathi. She got married at 14 and became a mother at 15. She’s expected to stay home, like most girls and women in her community. But, today she’s raising her voice to influence those around her to think differently about girls and their futures.

What did it take to make the quiet and unassuming Shathi a powerful agent for change? A safe space to talk, play and learn with other adolescent girls and young women, and support for her to express herself in her own family.

Shathi is just one of 42,000 girls who’ve benefited from Save the Children’s Girls’ Voices project, thanks to support from the Nike Foundation. Today many of these young women are talking about early marriage and the increased risks of maternal and newborn death that come with young pregnancies.

And armed with new life and business skills, many of the girls are contributing to their family’s wellbeing in ways never before imagined. (Check out Shilpi’s story to see how).

These girls are no longer shy and fleeting but are instead outgoing and active members of their families and communities.

I can hardly wait to see what these girls do next.

Mary Beth Powers leads Save the Children’s newborn and child survival campaign, which you can join at www.goodgoes.org.