Building a Bangladesh free of child marriage

A young changemaker’s story of empathy, courage, and teaming up



Dola is an Ashoka Young Changemaker

Every minute, 23 girls under the age of 18 are married around the world, and the numbers have been rising during the pandemic. In Bangladesh, 50 percent of girls face this fate.

Meanwhile, many are working to end the practice of child marriage. Dola, an Ashoka young changemaker from Bangladesh, is one of them. When she was 10, she asked her mother to share a fond childhood memory with her for a school assignment. Her mother — who was married at 13 — was unable to find one, because her childhood had been cut short.

Dola resolved then and there to end the practice. She is now mobilizing thousands of teenagers like herself to build a Bangladesh free of child marriage through the country’s National Child Forum. In the last two years, Dola and her team have shifted the perspectives of thousands of parents and prevented more than 600 child marriages. Ashoka’s Shafat Khan caught up with Dola to learn more.You can listen to the full conversation here. Here are a few highlights:

Mobilizing children across Bangladesh

Dola’s national network of peers raise awareness with parents through workshops, 1 on 1 conversations, street plays and community convenings. They also intervene when a child marriage is about to happen. Dola has been able to expand her team rapidly across the country thanks to a strategic partnership with World Vision’s National Child Forum.

Families play a vital role

Thanks to her mother’s experience, Dola understood early on that empathizing with parents and their stories was the key to unlocking the cultural shift needed. Just a few days ago, a peer of Dola’s learned that a young girl was about to get married. This is what they did about it:

Implementing the law

Though Bangladesh outlawed child marriage in 2017, there’s still a long way to go to ensure the law is properly enforced. Dola’s movement relies on strong alliances with government and police enforcement.

Though, of course, she reminds us that public support and citizen-led actions are critical.

The courage to keep going

Dola is no stranger to threats and criticism. She has struggled with self-doubt and depression, but her vision of a Bangladesh free of child marriage gives her the courage to keep going.

Everyone has a role

Dola ends with a call to action: it’s up to us to build the future we want together.

This conversation is part of Welcome Change, Ashoka’s weekly “news hour” that taps the expertise of social entrepreneurs on timely topics. Browse upcoming and past conversations here.




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