Imagine growing up in a place where, as a girl child, you are more likely to get married than go to secondary schools. That is the sad reality for girls in 26 countries, including Bangladesh.
With 30 percent girls being married at 15 or below, Bangladesh has the highest rate of child marriages outside sub-Saharan African nations.
These facts have been brought forth by international humanitarian organisation CARE that released a report titled "Vows of Poverty: 26 Countries Where Child Marriage Eclipses Girls' Education" on the occasion of the International Day of the Girl Child yesterday.
CARE ranked Bangladesh 20th among the 26 countries rated in the report. The country sees 65 percent of girls get married before 18 while 51 percent enrolled in secondary schools.
"Driving much of the problem are poverty, social norms that devalue girls and lax enforcement of laws forbidding child marriage. Violent weather exacerbated by climate change in some parts of the country can drive even more girls to marry early. As some poor families lose their farms to floods and mudslides, they marry their girls early to limit the number of mouths to feed and, in their view, ensure a more stable future for their daughters," CARE observed in the report.
Having the highest percentage of child brides in the world, Niger topped the list, in which 76 percent girls get married before 18 while only 10 percent go to secondary schools.
Chad, Central African Republic, South Sudan, and Somalia follow, each with at least 40 percentage point gap between the rates of child marriage and of girls' enrolments in secondary schools, according to the report.
"Many of the underlying causes of child marriage -- including social norms that devalue women and girls -- apply across all countries. Other forces are localised from the trafficking of girls in Mauritania to dowry considerations in Bangladesh to civil conflict in countries such as Afghanistan and Mali."
The report also says that worldwide about 39,000 girl children are forced to marry each day making it a startling a child marriage in every two seconds. It also provides statistics that 62 million girls are not in school and half of them are adolescents.
The countries in sequence of their rankings (serially from the worst case scenario) are Niger, Chad, Central African Republic, South Sudan, Somalia, Burkina Faso, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Guinea, Angola, Mali, Liberia, Malawi, Nigeria, Uganda, Eritrea, Guinea-Bissau, Senegal, Mauritania, Bangladesh, Equatorial Guinea, Madagascar, Cote d'Ivoire, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, and Tanzania.
"In some of these places, communities are making great strides in delaying marriage for girls and opening more doors to quality education. They offer hope and may not be on this list much longer. Other countries, however, show little progress. They are home to some of the most difficult living circumstances on earth, especially for girls," the report reads.