The Shonglap educational programme aims to overcome to problem of child brides in Bangladesh, with backing from Norway’s Strømme Foundation and the Kavli Trust.
Seventy-five per cent of Bangladeshi girls are married off as children. Although illegal, this has a practical aspect in a poor country – the younger the bride, the smaller the dowry.
A total of 5 400 girls are due to pass through the Strømme Foundation’s Shonglap school over the next three years, with the goal of making them proud and independent.
They will learn about their rights and opportunities to make their own money. In that way, they can avoid marrying too early, forced prostitution, mistreatment and exploitation. They get a chance to be in charge of their own lives.
The programme is split into three sections. For the first six months, the girls learn about aspects important for living a good life in the family and the local community.
This is followed by a three-month reading and writing course. Finally, the girls receive an elementary education in various professions and activities.
After completing the Shonglap course, many girls manage to motivate their families to send them back to conventional school. Others start a small income-generating activity so that they become more financially independent.
The Kavli Trust turns 50 this year, and Shonglap has been chosen as its anniversary project.
Courageous Thumpa (above) escaped from captivity. “Shonglap protects girls against trafficking,” she says.