The story of Kohinoor is not an individual case. Similar things happen to many girls in Bangladesh: at the age of just 14 years, her parents married her off to a man nine years her senior. As in this case, financial difficulties force parents to give their daughters away to another family. Because then there is one less mouth to feed. In addition, the dowry for such a young girl is much lower.
The forced marriage of children in Bangladesh is calledBallya Bibaha, and according to the law it is illegal in the country, however, it is still being practiced in villages. The opinion of the majority of the local community and of the parents is crucial. In Dhuranjo village, North Bangladesh, where Kohinoor’s family lives, the majority of the girls are being married underage.
Thus ended the time, when Kohinoor could play with her friends as much as she liked. Instead of enjoying childhood as her peers, she now had to fulfil the duties of a house-wife and take care of her new family of seven. It was not an easy task due to the very limited amount of income. Her husband Lablu, the only earner in the family, cannot read and write, and receives only irregular income of a day labourer. In addition, his family does not own any agriculturally cultivable land.
At the age of 16, Kohinoor was pregnant with her first child – it was too early for her still girlish body. She suffered a lot of pain and there were serious complications during the childbirth. The mother and the child were lucky to survive because the birth took place at home and without support of healthcare professionals. The joy about her daughter was soon overshadowed as now Kohinoor had to care also for the new-born. There was barely enough money for that. Nevertheless, the family was hoping for another baby – a male offspring.
Four years later Kohinoor was pregnant again. Her second pregnancy was even more difficult than the first one: the financial burden of the family had become even bigger because the food prices rose and the health of the grandparents has worsened due to the age, and they needed medication. There was not much left for Kohinoor herself – and therefore she ate irregularly and insufficient. The pregnancy weakened her even more, and she developed serious health problems. She repeatedly lost consciousness and were fainting.
Even though her family was very worried, she avoided visiting the doctor as it was simply too expensive. Finally, one day a neighbour referred her to the Kalai Upazila Health Complex – one of the nine medical centres supported by Cap Anamur, in order to provide free care to so called ultra-poor or the poorest of the poor.
The advice came just in time – although Kohinoor experienced labour-like pains, she could not deliver the baby. Her husband immediately brought the heavily pregnant woman to the health centre and, in order to find the cause of the poor condition of Kohinoor, the doctors started to carry out numerous tests and examinations right away. The gynaecologist quickly discovered that the due date has been exceeded by several weeks, and that the child was malnourished and too small due to the malnutrition of the mother.
Kohinoor gave birth to her second daughter on the same day. Due to her condition the birth was a challenge to the doctors, however they succeeded to deliver the baby without performing Caesarean section. After several days, the mother and the child had recovered enough and were allowed to return home – the family was overjoyed to be able to welcome them both safe and sound. „My daughter and I were in a life threatening situation“, says Kohinoor in retrospect. „The doctors at the Health Complex have saved both our lives by starting treatment immediately. I am grateful that Cap Anamur provides free medical care for people like me, and I wish that similar institutions to Cap Anamur would operate in the whole Bangladesh.”
Indeed, in the meantime, information about our offer has spread in the Northern Bangladesh and more and more people make use of it: for instance, before in the Kalai Upazila Health Complex there were around ten to twelve deliveries a year, while currently between 20 and 30 children are being born every month. Thanks to the professional support, almost all of the women endure childbirth without complications. „It is so obvious that the birth in the hospital, which is so much safer, is now being regarded differently in the community“, says one of the local doctors. “This is a wonderful change!“
Kohinoor and Lablu are happy that their second daughter is healthy and so lively that she keeps them both busy at all times.
Shabbir Uddin Ahmed
Bangladeshi Shabbir Uddin Ahmed is assisting this project since it began six years ago. It is thanks to his endurance and negotiation skills that our help could be established permanently – despite the widespread corruption and the extremely high bureaucratic hurdles in this country. The 56-year-old lives in Bangladesh together with his wife and two daughters.
Cap Anamur in Bangladesh
What started as an emergency help for the victims of cyclone Sidr that stormed over the country in 2007, creating devastating damage and killing around 3500 people, has developed into a permanent project: Cap Anamur supports nine medical facilities in the north of the country with necessary instruments and medication. In return, free medical treatment is provided for the poorest part of the population. Our special control mechanism guarantees that the help really reach the poorest of the poor. In this way, around 5000 people a month can receive care through our support. Our team is currently planning the expansion of the mother-child-care as well as medical care for the elderly in the region of Joypurhat.