The dynamics of economic independence for girls in rural Bangladesh is different from that in the urban part of the country. According to Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BANBEIS), dropout rate for girls in secondary level education stands at 54%, which implies that 54% of all girls who were enrolled in class VI drop out by the time they are in class X. The dominant reason for the steep dropout rates is early marriage. In rural Bangladesh, dowry is an element that is intertwined in a girl's marriage. The older the girl gets, the more dowry is demanded for her as a means to compensate for her old age. As a result, parents are sometimes inclined to put their daughters' hands in marriages at a young age to escape the financial strain in the future. According to UNICEF, 66% of all girls are married off by the age of 18. After a girl is married, she seldom gets an opportunity to revert to being a student and attain further education. After marriage comes the responsibility of her husband and his family as well as rearing children in years to follow.
This can depict the economic and financial status of a married young girl especially in rural areas. If she is a housewife responsible for rearing children and taking care of her family, her economic stance in the eyes of the community is marginal at best. Her finances are constrained by her husband's will. If the husband provides her with money to bear the expenses of the family, her share may only be however little she can save after spending on all household needs. In some cases, husbands do not even financially support the wives and as a result she has to resort to taking out loans or doing odd jobs to sustain the family. This turns out to be an extremely arduous task for someone with little education and skills.
For women to be in control of their lives, they need to be financially and thus, economically independent. The basic policy starts with education. Though legally it is not allowed for a girl to get married unless she is 18 years old, adolescent marriages are rampant. Therefore, policy implementation must be strengthened to minimize, if not completely dissolve, the problem. When a girl finishes education, she is armored with human capital that she can use to get a respectable job and maintain herself and her family.
For girls who are married and for whom going back to education is not an option, technical and vocational training is advisable for them. In rural parts of the country, there are many young women who have gotten divorced soon after marriage. In these situations, these young women have no option but to take refuge to their parents' houses. The parents in most cases are not wealthy enough to bear the financial load of these women and, once again, they become financially and economically vulnerable.
Opening up accessible skills-training centers exclusively for women can help to financially rehabilitate these women. Moreover, if they are trained in those particular skills that are required in migrant worker-demanding countries, they can be sent abroad for work and this can in turn increase remittance inflow in the country.
As a result they will be able to sustain themselves, as well as their families and children.
The writer is the head of research at The Daily Star and can be reached at email@example.com