May 18, 2020
Room to Read is honored to be a partner of Red Nose Day.
The story below is from a girl enrolled on our Girls’ Education Program directly benefiting from Red Nose Day’s fundraising.
Keya is a girl in Cox’s Bazar, a coastal region in southern Bangladesh, who is enrolled in Room to Read’s Girls’ Education Program. In 2017, the region experienced a large refugee influx, taking in nearly one million Rohingya refugees from Myanmar. The rapid increase in population has caused economic and social tensions, yet the causes of poverty an discrimination in Cox’s Bazar have been long-present. Gender discrimination is prevalent in Cox’s Bazar, exacerbated by education services that are overcapacity and families struggling financially.
As a result, there are high levels of child marriage and early pregnancy in the region due to societal and family pressures, resulting in girls not attending school. For Keya, escaping gender discrimination has been nearly impossible. Keya, in Grade 7, has already faced years of harassment throughout her lifetime. She has been regularly verbally abused on the street by men looking to intimidate her. The situation escalated to the point that men broke her bedroom window to try and physically harass her during the night. Not only was her safety compromised, but so was her ability to receive an education to achieve her dream of becoming a politician to help the next generation of girls. It is vital for Keya and other girls to learn from Room to Read’s life skills classes, which empower girls to protect their safety and navigate obstacles like discrimination. This was not the only obstacle Keya faced. While suffering from irregular menstruation, Keya was pressured not to attend school. In certain communities in Bangladesh, there is a taboo around menstruation and girls are not allowed to leave their homes. At one point, her community sought “local magic” to help her, rather than trusting medical science. Thankfully, with the generous support of Comic Relief’s Red Nose Day, Keya is now on-track to fulfill her dream of becoming a politician and changing her community for the better.
After enrolling in Room to Read’s Girls’ Education Program last year, her social mobilizer assisted her through the obstacles that she’d been facing. Social mobilizers are local women who mentor and support girls in secondary school enrolled in our program. To ensure Keya and other girls like her do not fall behind, Keya’s social mobilizer convinced the community of the benefits of keeping girls in school and the importance of consistent attendance. With the support of her social mobilizer, Keya’s community understood the importance of promoting safety and education for girls. Keya also learned key skills to help her succeed in school and overcome the challenges she faced. Keya now attends school every day!
Today, Keya is on a new path to leave a lasting legacy for change, crediting Room to Read’s life-changing Girls’ Education Program: “I have learned here how to be independent, self-sufficient and self-reliant. How to avoid and how to speak up about harassment. I have learned all these things from the life skills education sessions.”