For some schoolkids, walking to the bus-stop is a pain, so imagine the inconvenience of having to wade across a river every morning.

For girls in the community of Hatibandha, Bangladesh, this is how the one-and-a-half hour journey to school looked every day during the rainy season

They were drenched by the time they arrived. They missed classes. Some days, staying at home was the easier option and as a result, many fell behind in their lessons and some decided to drop out altogether. Leaving school early means girls are more likely to be married off young, and in a place where 90% of girls are wives by the age of 18, the risk is very real.

While Plan International doesn’t have the power to control the weather (yet), with our partners in Bangladesh we found a way to support girls to attend school without having to travel long distances in dangerous conditions. The solution? Building a new, 52 bed, on-site dormitory!

The dormitory, built especially for girls, allows them to live, study and achieve their goals in a safe and comfortable environment. By staying in school, they are less likely to become wives and mothers at a young age, giving them the opportunity to follow their ambitions and create happy lives for themselves.

The dorm itself is everything a student could want – it’s bright, clean and fully furnished with a kitchen and running water – resources that many of the girls have never had access to. “We are really lucky to get the chance to stay here,” says Smrity, a Grade 9 student. “Once I was worried to come to school and some of us could not attend classes. But now, I don’t have any worries about facing a risky commute to school.”

Parents have also expressed their excitement about the new facility, with one saying “Our children are vulnerable in terms of development and inclusion, and this dormitory is a major step to support us to lessen this gap. They will not be hampered by the social hurdles imposed on them. Our children will develop and flourish like any other children”

And what better way to reflect this flourishing than by giving the dorm the name ‘Teestakoli’. ‘Teesta’ refers to the river the girls once crossed on their journey to school and Koli is a flower bud. Together, the two words tell the story of the girls from Hatibandha – how they overcame their obstacle and now, through education, they can blossom.

Through projects like this one Plan International has witnessed the way girls can thrive when they are given equal opportunities. Our latest report, It’s Our Time highlights the importance of including adolescent girls in aid and development agendas and the fact that until they are acknowledged, gender equality will not be possible.

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