Rahela* married at age 13, about a year after both of her parents were killed by Cyclone Aila, which struck Bangladesh in 2009. “They had left me at my grandmother’s house. [Our house] was swept away. No one saw their dead bodies,” she said. Rahela went to live with her aunt and uncle but they were struggling to afford education for their own two children. “You know orphans don’t get education,” Rahela said. “My aunt and uncle asked me not to go to school— they said I should work in their house and look after their children.”
About a year later, her aunt and uncle arranged a marriage for her. “I can’t really blame them,” Rahela said. “They don’t have enough money to provide for their own children.” When Human Rights Watch interviewed Rahela last year, she was 17 and was struggling to care for her one year old son, saying she’s never recovered her strength after her pregnancy. “I really wanted to continue my education so I could get a job and stand on my own feet.” she said.