Asma Jahangir

Pakistani human rights lawyer and advocate for the rights of women, minorities, and children

Asia-Pacific and South Asia
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 Asma_Jahangir

Arzina Begum is a child marriage abolitionist from the Nilphamari district of Bangladesh, where girls in rural areas are often compelled to marry while they are still children, and the government fails to enforce laws against this practice. When Begum was 12 years old, her parents tried to coerce her into an arranged marriage, but she resisted. Her sister, however, was forced to marry when she was 15 years old. Today, Begum is an honors student at the Government University College and actively campaigns against child marriage by staging rallies, cultural shows, and theater performances. A role model to her country’s young girls—82% of Bangladeshi women between the ages of 29 and 45 were married before the age of 18—Begum is also an advocate for increasing access to education for women. Promoting women’s empowerment has been shown to result in a number of health and education benefits. The village where Begum grew up is one of the poorest in the district of Nilphamari, and she witnessed many girls forced into marriage at a young age. Begum defied her parents when they tried to force her into marriage by seeking the help of a local children’s organization called Sunflower. The group’s members are mostly youths aged 10 to 18 years old. The group sought help from the village development committee, and Begum successfully resisted the marriage. Begum is now a campaigner against child marriage in her community and works to keep the Nilphamari district free of the practice. She is a member of the development committee in her village, the Union Council Women and Child Related Standing Committee, and the Community Clinic Management Committee. She works to promote education for girls and raise awareness on the negative impacts,including health risks, of child marriage.

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