Sylhet is a city located in the north-east of Bangladesh. Sylhetis, around 500,000 people, have a strong attachment to their cultural identity. People living in the division of Sylhet live off tourism, and from its main economic activities, the cultivation of tea and the production of oil and gas.However, poverty still affects people in Sylhet. Children are suffering most from this, many do not get enough food and can only dream of going to school. Furthermore, many children in Sylhet are forced to marry at a young age.
Since 2011, SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children, young people and families and advocating for their rights in Sylhet.
Bangladesh ranks among the top 10 countries in the world with the highest levels of child marriage. This means a harrowing 51% of women aged 20 to 24 were first married before 18. Child marriage is a violation of the universal declaration of human rights, and the emotional damage a child suffers from a forced union is profound. Married girls in Bangladesh are over four times more likely to be out of school than unmarried girls. Furthermore, there is also an increased risk of child pregnancies and domestic violence. In Sylhet specifically, 2 million girls were married as a child. The government has set a national target to end child marriage by 2041.
Families move to cities in search of a better life and job opportunities, or because they have been victims of the ravages of climate change. However, they often end up in slums on the border of the city. In fact, around 24% of the population in the Sylhet division lives in poverty.Children are most vulnerable to the poverty in these slums, and to the lack of access to safe drinking water and inadequate sanitation. They also do not have proper access to food. For this reason, 5.5 million children suffer from malnutrition in Bangladesh, and more specifically in Sylhet, 37% of children under 5 are underweight.