70 in 1,000 girls become teenage mothers

A teenage girl at the Mritshilpi Mela (earthenware fair) at Ashwini Kumar Hall in Barishal city on 20 October 2023.Saiyan

Armina, 19, works at a readymade garment factory in Gazipur. She was married five years ago while she was in class nine and gave birth a year later.

The child of Armina now lives with their grandmother, Hamida Begum, in Panchapukur of Nilphamari. Hamida Begum spoke to Prothom Alo on 7 February. She said Armina is the second among her two sons and two daughters. She married off her daughters while they were in class nine and both gave birth to babies after a year.

Though Hamida Begum married off her daughters at an early age due to poverty, she did not want her daughters to become mothers early. Armina became ill severely during her pregnancy.

Like Amina, 70 in 1,000 girls aged between 15 and 19 become mothers in the country, a recent survey by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) revealed.

BBS released the summary of the new survey titled Bangladesh Sample Vital Statistic 2022 in December last year and the full report on its website on 31 January.

According to the survey, less than 1 in 1,000 or 0.6 per cent of girls aged below 15 also give birth to babies in Bangladesh. Besides, child marriage among girls aged between 15 and 18 increased by 10.9 per cent to 40.9 per cent in 2022 from 30 per cent in 2018 while child marriage among girls aged below 15 rose by 1.9 per cent to 6.5 per cent in 2022 from 406 per cent in 2018.

BBS data on children marriage, however, differs significantly from the data of the Bangladesh Demographic and Health Survey (DBHS) 2022 of the National Institute of Population Research and Training (NIPORT)

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According to the DBHS 2022, 50 per cent of girls are married before they turn 18 and one in four or 27 per cent of girls were married off before 16 while 24 per cent of girls aged between 15 and 19 become pregnant. All these indicators witnessed an uptrend in the DBHS 2022 from the Bangladesh Demographic and Health Survey 2017-18.

Regarding the difference in data, BBS Sample Vital Registration System (SVRS) in Digital Platform project director Md Alamgir Hossain told Prothom Alo findings may vary because of methodological differences in the survey. Besides, the SVRS survey collected more samples than the DBHS. A total of 306,000 families were reached through the SVRS survey, and girls’ ages during marriage and regency were verified as per vaccine card or birth registration or education certificate, he added.

More teenage mothers in Rajshahi

According to the BBS survey, more than 44 in 1,000 girls aged between 15 and 19 become teenage mothers in the city, and the figure increases to about 78 in rural areas. The highest 87.5 in 1,000 girls aged between 15 and 19 become teenage mothers in Rajshahi, 87.3 in Rangpur, 86 in Khulna, 77.3 in Chattogram, 65.1 in Barishal, 63.6 in Mymensingh, 55.2 in Dhaka and the lowest 33.5 in 1,000 girls of this age group become teenage mother.

‘Child giving birth to a baby’

Former president of Obstetrical and Gynaecological Society of Bangladesh (OGSB) professor Ferdousi Begum told Prothom Alo a girl does not become prepared physically and mentally before 18 and her body also does not become ready for marriage and pregnancy. Becoming pregnant at this age means ‘child giving birth to a baby’. This is not good for both mother and baby, and girls also face various obstetric complications, as well as malnutrition, anaemia and high blood pressure. Many times obstructed labour or the birth of a premature baby happens. Both mother and baby face increasing risk of death. Besides, these teenage mothers receive no care from their families, she added.

Ferdousi Begum emphasises collecting actual data and statistics from the grassroots and taking effective measures accordingly to prevent child marriage and teenage pregnancy.

SVRS in Digital Platform project director Alamgir Hossain said child marriage and teenage pregnancy cannot be prevented through government initiatives only. Everyone in society has a role to play. Social awareness must increase. Or else, the generation that can make effective contributions to the country's development will not develop, he added.

This report appeared in the print and online editions of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Hasanul Banna