Some of the team [have gone on] to represent Bangladesh at an international level
Sharmila, 15, lives in the Narail District of Bangladesh and has been playing for the Joti Nari Football Team for the past 5 years.
Joti Nari (meaning Shining Woman) was set up with Banchte Shekha, an organisation supported by UK Aid which works across more than 2,000 villages in Bangladesh, to help girls like Sharmila avoid child marriage.
The only requirement to join the team is that the girls need to be in school, thus preventing them from being married early.
Bangladesh still has one of the highest rates of child marriage worldwide, and the highest rate of marriage involving girls under the age of 15.
52% of girls are married by their 18th birthday and 18% by the age of 15.
A survey in 2011 found that 87% of households in Bangladesh reported domestic violence.
The Joti Nori team regularly campaign to stop child marriage and help girls continue their education. Sharmila has seen many child marriages taking place in her local community and wants to ensure she avoids such a fate, while also preventing her peers from being married young.
“We have stopped lots of child marriages through the team. Lots of girls are showing interest to join the team, and they are not getting married before 18.”
Joti Nari have also helped to break down social barriers, changing perceptions of what it means to be a girl in Bangladesh.
With some of the team going on to represent Bangladesh at an international level, they have begun to see that given the right opportunities, girls can be successful.
“Because of my performance my father is now receiving respect from the villagers. I make my father proud. And the villagers also praise him for my example. I’m very happy and proud to be in the team.”
The work of Banchte Shekha, does not stop with a football team. Supported by UK Aid they also promote gender equality, address women’s empowerment through an adolescent group, run women’s rights groups and provide business support for women so they can contribute to the local economy and increase their independence.