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England Women aim to empower

England women’s cricketers Heather Knight, Lydia Greenway and Tammy Beaumont met two female Bangladeshi cricketers and International Development Minister, Desmond Swayne, at Lord’s today to discuss issues around sport, women’s empowerment and early forced marriage, ahead of the Prime Minister’s Girl Summit 2014.

Bangladesh-based charity BRAC has flown in the two young female cricketers, Mitu Roy and Tania Akter, from their Adolescent Development Programme, to take part in the UK’s Girl Summit, which takes place tomorrow.

The summit aims to bring about action to end the practices of child, early and speak out against forced marriage (CEFM) and female genital mutilation (FGM) within a generation.

Swayne, who was welcomed to Lord’s by Giles Clarke, the ECB Chairman, said: “Sport can make a real difference to the lives of girls in developing countries.  It gives them a healthy, enjoyable past time, of course.

“Even more importantly it helps them to establish themselves in their community, raises their status and gives them control over their future.

“Too often girls around the world are robbed of a choice in life by being forced to marry early.  It also puts them at risk of missing an education and dying young in childbirth.

“The UK will host the first Girl Summit, aimed at mobilising domestic and international efforts to end female genital mutilation and child marriage within a generation.”

England women's cricketers Lydia Greenway, Heather Knight and Tammy Beaumont show their support today ahead of the UK Girl's Summit

England women’s cricketer, Heather Knight, added: “Meeting Mitu and Tania today and discussing some of the challenges that they face on a daily basis has been really thought provoking.  It is shocking to hear that one in three girls in developing countries is married by the time they are 18, with some of those as young as eight.

“Charities like BRAC are doing wonderful work to try to address these issues, and I hope that the UK’s Girl Summit will generate the world wide support needed to inspire local and national efforts to end early forced marriage.” 

BRAC chairperson, Sir Fazle Ahbed, said: “BRAC ensures that Bangladeshi adolescents are fully equipped to face life and its challenges through its multiple and comprehensive interventions, including sport. Participating in sport empowers adolescents, especially girls. It builds their self-confidence, independence and the ability to take decisions that affect their lives."

Mitu and Tania are club leaders and cricket coaches from BRAC’s Adolescent Development Programme, which aims to help build confidence in adolescents. 

Mitu, 20, said: “Through playing cricket in BRAC clubs I have gained the trust of my family as well as the community.  Now they know that I can lead my team and solve my problems for myself.”

Tania, 21, added: “Playing sport has made me so confident that now I can talk freely about many other issues with many people and can encourage other girls to do the same.”

The event at Lord’s today follows a visit by members of the England women’s team to the Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF) in Dhaka during the ICC Women’s World Twenty20 competition in March.

At the ASF, the players got the opportunity to see how funding from the UK Department for International Development (DFID) has helped thousands of women and children who have been disfigured in acid attacks.