Concerned About Child Marriage

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Hello,

Yesterday I recieved my first letter from my sponsored child and I was one of the most wonderful experiences I have ever felt in my life. But with my joy also came new fear. The members of her family are listed on the other side of her letter. I noticed that her 15 year old sister had a different last name than the other family members. I hoped there was some other explanation for this, so I asked a good friend of mine who lives in Bangladesh. My friend said that this indeed seems to indicate that her sister is already married and my she also expressed serious concern that Pinky, my sponsored child, may be in danger of the same fate.

I have read articles about this issue both here and elsewhere, and I am aware that it is an ancient cultural practice and has proven very difficult to eradicate. I am also aware that marriage under the age of 18 is illegal in Bangladesh. I don't wish to be a pest, but I want to be sure that Compassion, both here and in Bangladesh will do everything within their power to allow Pinky the opportunity to complete her education through her child development center. Her dream is to be a teacher. I will do everything I can to encourage her to follow that dream, but her dream will never be possible if she is married as a child. I shared her letter with my friend, and my friend commented that Pinky's Benglali writing is very good for her age. I don't want to see her talent go to waste.

I would like to know that somebody out there is fighting hard for my girl's rights and I would like to know what, if anything, I can do as a sponsor to respectfully encourage her to resist this practice.

Thank you,

James
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James Westberry

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Posted 5 years ago

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Emily

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James, I so appreciate your concern and care for Pinky. I know that this can sometimes cause weariness and be disheartening to see especially since these children live in a culture with practices so different from our own. We pray for sponsor's that have a passion and heart to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves and it is very evident that you want the best for your girl.

I encourage you that at Compassion, our hope is that children in our program will focus on their education, honing life-skills and becoming fulfilled Christian adults who do not enter into such a sacred relationship until adulthood. Our project staff encourage these children in their goals and dreams and work hard to provide an environment where the children feel safe to be all that God has created them to be. As such, you can rest assured that we work with families, community leaders and legal authorities when necessary to protect our sponsored children from illegal marriages but we do not interfere with the cultural custom of arranged or non-arranged marriage.

I encourage you to continue feeding hope into her life through your letters and motivate her to use the gifts she has been given and the identity she has in Christ, to defeat the lie poverty tells her that she has no other options. God has a wonderful purpose for her life just as you know, one that she cannot even imagine. I will definitely be standing with you in prayer that her dream and motivation to become a teacher would only grow stronger and that she would have the courage and strength to be a light in her community even if it means going against the grain and norm of what she is used to and what society says she should be. 
(Edited)
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James Westberry

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Thank you Emily. I will continue to encourage Pinky to study and pursue her dreams.  I will pray for her and keep faith in God and Compassion to provide for her well-being.

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Teresa Dawn

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Could it also be that she is a half-sister with a different father?  That may give her a different last name too.  It could be that her biological father is no longer in the picture.
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James Westberry

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Hopefully I am overreacting, but I have invested a great deal of emotional capital into this little girl. I take my sponsorship of her very seriously and I truly want to do all I can to help give her as good of a life as God will allow.

I thank you for offering this suggestion.  It's always nice when a sane person offers their observations to one who is viewing things through the lense of emotion. That said, I don't believe this could be the case, as this sister, age 15, appears between two brothers, 17 and 14, who also share their father's name.

I have had time to pray about it and God has given me peace. I leave it in His hands and trust that He is in control. I wonder how much of an impact our letters have on our childrens' parents.  I will definately use my letters to persuade Pinky and her family that she can much better serve her family and community if she is allowed to complete her education.
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Teresa Dawn

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Hopefully you will find out what's going on.  It could also be that the sister is actually a cousin who lives with them, I've had that happen with quite a few of my kids.  Praying for your child :)

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