A HAVERFORDWEST teenager is highlighting the importance of sex education and family planning as she witnesses first-hand the vital difference it makes to women and girls in Blangladesh.

Eighteen year-old Tia Culley is currently halfway through a volunteer placement in the country where 30% of the population live below the poverty line and two in every three girls are married before they turn 18.

Tia is working on a UK Aid funded VSO International Citizen Service (ICS) project in Dinajpur, north west Bangladesh, which aims to lift people out of poverty and improve knowledge and understanding of good sexual health.

Tia, a former Pembrokeshire College student, is shared her experiences as world leaders came together at the Family Planning Summit in London, on Tuesday, July 11 to drive plans to bring family planning to all women everywhere by 2020.

Tia said: "Young women [here] have never had any sex education because it is very limited and sex is never spoken about. Young girls who are getting married under the age of 18 are expected to have children quickly after, and I have seen this after visiting the youth clubs that we are working with within the community.

"Giving women and girls access to family planning and sex education is very important to the community. With access to family planning and sex education women can be in control of their bodies, have more of an understanding on menstrual hygiene and have clean, safe deliveries. I am a very lucky woman to have an education, to have been taught sex education and to have been given these options. It has been a very emotional to see girls as young as 14 already married, and now expected to drop out of school and start a family even though they want to carry on with their education.”

Working in a team of young Bangladeshi and British volunteers, Tia is delivering sex education classes at local youth groups and ‘courtyard sessions’, which provide a safe space for young people to talk openly about sexual health. These sessions give young people information about contraception, as well as covering topics including prevention of child marriage, domestic violence and female empowerment.

Tia and her team mates are also working with the village’s Child Marriage Prevention Committee, which brings together community members, from village elders to local youth club members, to speak out against child marriage. Community members who become aware of planned child marriages can come to the committee, who mobilise quickly to support the girl and her family, and take what steps they can to prevent the marriage.

Tia added: “I’m half way through my time here in Bangladesh, and so far I have achieved so much.”