When the matchmaker turned up at her house, 13-year-old Rehana Begum knew something was wrong. Shortly afterwards, an unknown woman smiled at her from the doorway; her worst fears were confirmed. Her parents were planning to marry her off.
Rehana, a class six student at a secondary school in Nilphamari district in northern Bangladesh, was well aware of the likely consequences of early marriage – an end to school, isolation from her friends and a life of hard work at her in-laws. But she also knew outright rebellion was out of the question. In the poverty-stricken, deeply conservative northern districts of Bangladesh, children defer to elders.
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