Khulna is the third largest city in Bangladesh, with a population of 950,000. The city is located in the Khulna division, which is the second largest division in Bangladesh, with a population of 14.7 million. The city is an important industrial and commercial centre, especially due to its location and its harbour. However, 40% of the city’s population still lives below the poverty line, and 20% live in slums. Children are suffering from these harsh living conditions. Furthermore, millions of children in the Khulna division become victims of child marriage.
Since 1982, SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children, young people and families and advocating for their rights in Khulna.
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 8% of the total Khulna city area can be considered as slums.
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 Khulna, 18% of children under 5 are underweight.
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 Khulna specifically, 5 million girls were married as a child. The government has set a national target to end child marriage by 2041.