She couldn't hear her mother's voice

I’m no stranger to early marriage. And I don’t mean because I’m passionate about the cause and talk about it all the time.  I was married at the age of 17 and have longed for a different life for my own daughter.  Once my daughter Jess grew up and was well on her way in her life, I began to pursue helping other girls in the only way I knew how– through child sponsorship.

Rhaki is my sponsor child (right) with her best friend Lota.

On my first trip to Bangladesh in 2008, I met a woman who was married at the age of 11.  She was a frail, young woman who was 22 when I met her. I can’t imagine how her small frame could possibly have given birth at the age of 12.  Her story changed me for life.  I met with her in her one-room house built with clay, mud and straw.  Standing next to her was her 10-year-old daughter who was born unable to hear or speak because her mother’s body wasn’t ready for child birth.

Stories like this one keep me motivated to make a difference.  I want to put an end to the injustices that occur every day against women and girls in this world.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 14 million adolescent girls become mothers every year.  Of these young mothers, 90 percent are found living in developing countries.    The impact on a woman’s young life and health is staggering.  The leading cause of death among girls aged 15-19 in developing countries are due to complications from pregnancy and childbirth.

Early pregnancy not only harms the young mother but also the child.  When a young mother gives birth under the age of 19, there is a 50 percent higher chance it will be stillborn or die early, than if the mother were to wait until she was in her twenties.

Together we can put an end to the poverty caused by early childbirth that puts millions of women’s health at risk around the world.  One way I am fighting for this cause is by sponsoring a girl child.   My sponsored child, Rhaki, is at risk — she faces her twelfth birthday this year.  But, due in part to my sponsorship and the work of Food for the Hungry, I sincerely believe that she has a better chance at life.  With her marriage postponed, she is at less risk of dropping out of school.

My daughter serves her community through the American Red Cross

My hope for this little girl is the same as it was for my own daughter, Jess.  My dream for her to pursue a higher education, earn a degree and be involved in work that fulfills her.  Jess did just that and now serves an at-risk population with another non-profit relief and development organization.  She makes her mom proud and I hope that one day I get the chance to see Rhaki graduate college too. And that will make both her real mother and I very proud!

If you’d like to sponsor a child or find out more information, click here.