From Downton Abbey
to downtown Dakar

One Plan Ambassador wants to take you on a journey

“It’s about educating everyone – fathers and brothers, too. The teenage boys weren’t as confident in their views as the girls were – it was quite telling and they really feel they have a voice. They took over the meetings. But the boys understand that education is a huge part of their economy moving forward and for them all to have better opportunities in the future.”

Contrary to popular opinion – men are not the enemy here.

“It’s remarkable. These are teenagers going round and speaking to adults,” Froggatt tells me. “And they do come up against opposition. But it’s amazing how many families have taken heed to their advice. It’s a long process and it doesn’t happen on the first meeting, but there have been numerous success stories where the family has decided to respect their child’s wishes of not wanting to get married”.

One such girl is Rhada, 18, who Froggatt met on her trip to Bangladesh.

Joanne Froggatt in Bangledash 3

“She’s refused eight marriages. When I met her she was just starting to study towards her degree and had, with Plan’s backing, helped 12 other girls escape child marriage. She wants to be a social worker. Both her sisters were married very young and one was tortured by her husband and ran away. Rhada told me she just wants to marry someone that both she and her family agree with.

It was, she tells me, why she was particularly struck by meeting 16-year-old Rahima who also married in 2012, then aged just 14. She now has a one-year-old son.

“That really struck a chord with me,” says Froggatt. “I got married two years ago when I was 32, twice her age. I was able to marry for love and because I wanted to. It’s such a vast contrast between my choice and her lack of choice. Rahima felt like a very sad soul. She had no vibrancy about her, like the other girls who were free to have an education. Her story has really stuck with me. She’s been in my thoughts a lot. I come home and I see my husband, who I love very much. And it keeps crossing my mind – I wonder what Rahima is doing now? Because she’s basically in a life of servitude.”

“We just need to start the conversation about girls’ rights. I defy anyone to go on a trip like this and not want to sponsor a child”.



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