Bullies couldn’t stop her from succeeding

This story comes from David Burton, international communications officer for FH/Bangladesh

Ayesha is 14 years old and is part of the Boilor community in Trishal, near Mymensingh in northern Bangladesh. She is in grade 7.

In its strategic programs, FH focuses on the whole family, helping families experience transformation and seeing them help themselves to grow based on biblical principles.

Ayesha’s father, Tula Mia, is a rickshaw puller, a low-wage job with very little security and an unpredictable daily wage. Her mother is raising Ayesha and her younger brother and sister, so her father is the only income-earner in the family.

This is typical of many families in Bangladesh but, unlike many, Ayesha’s family members have a good relationship amongst themselves. (Ayesha, second from left in the photo above, stands with her mother, father and two siblings.)

Yet when Ayesha was young, her parents did not understand the importance of education. Without intervention, cultural norms could have seen Ayesha married by now; it is common for girls to be married by age 13 or even younger. FH staff visited her home regularly, explaining to her parents that education could change their daughter’s future for the better.

Ayesha was enrolled in the local primary school called Rahmania. She flourished in her studies and in her understanding of biblical principles such as servant-heartedness and can regularly be seen helping those younger than she.

Her progress is a result of her hard work and the role played in her life by FH staff, who run adolescent classes to help children like Ayesha negotiate the difficult transition between childhood and adulthood. Challenging at the best of times, the poverty of the Boilor community makes this transition even more difficult and dangerous.

A tragically common occurrence in Bangladesh is the victimization of girls
in public — mockery and threats randomly directed by groups of men and boys at women and girls. This is known as “Eve-teasing,” but it would be more accurately described as misogynist bullying. 

Violence like this drives many parents to marry their daughters young, just to ensure their security. Ayesha was attacked in this way, and her parents considered taking her out of school and finding her a family to marry into. This would have been a catastrophic cutting-short of Ayesha’s potential.

FH staff continued to visit her parents, explaining about the negative effects of early marriage and teaching them about the law in Bangladesh which, though frequently ignored, outlaws marriage before the age of 18.

Her parents agreed to keep her in school and, as a place of confidence and empowerment, Ayesha has felt safe to continue her studies in Rahmania. Though born into poverty and victimized by members of her community, Ayesha has continued to grow and is as strong in her studies as she ever was. Her family has seen and rejoiced in her growth.

“I am very proud of my daughter,” Ayesha’s father said,
“and very grateful to the FH staff.”

Ayesha herself knows the value of empowerment and the importance of serving others with the confidence that has grown in the face of adversity.

“I like to study,” she says. “The values I’ve been taught show me how to serve helpless people. In the future, I’d like to be a teacher.”

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