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Inside Teaching : June 2011
Inside Teaching | June 2011 FEATURE 14 Changing attitudes In the corner of her family hut, Sharifa, 16, has a small table, and on the table is a mirror, a jewellery box and some make- up – what you’d expect among a teenage girl’s purchases. Her more surprising acquisition is sitting in the hut’s courtyard: a sanitary water closet. Sharifa is among the nearly 50,000 girls who have received training in life skills, income generation and microloans from the world’s largest non- government organisation, the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC). Sharifa’s small business of selling eggs and vegetables is allowing her to stay in school, buy herself some nice things and support her family’s needs. Baser, her father, has been impressed. Girls with money, he noticed, are good for families, and good for villages. Sowhenhehadafieldto lease, he purposely leased it to his neighbour’s adolescent daughter. Sharifa’s is the first generation of girls in her village to have such opportunity — and Baser’s is the first generation of fathers to see their daughters in a brand new light. Attitudes and traditions are complex and deeply held. For girls in the developing world, they’ve led to behaviours that leave girls unsupported and vulnerable, which locks in a cycle of poverty for families and communities. But social norms are not immutable, and neither are the systems they foster. When you meet Sharifa and Baser, you’re seeing change unfold, and a system that’s re- engineering itself. The big picture • In Bangladesh, 67 per cent of the country’s 11.7 million girls aged 15 to 24 are jobless. • Without school or job training, marriage is often the next