Facilitating School Campaign Programme

Date: 09-Jan-2024

Child marriage, Dowry, and Domestic Violence, Human Hights, Community, Students, Guardians, Teachers, and Committee members, BftW, Diakonia

Child marriage is a common phenomenon in Bangladesh. Though Bangladesh has made tremendous progress in terms of reducing child mortality, maternal mortality, and promoting girls’ education over the last decade, child marriage and its associated incidence like dowry, domestic violence are still very high in Bangladesh. According to the UNICEF report 2020, in Bangladesh, 51 percent of young women were married in childhood. Among the country’s entire population of girls and women, 38 million married before the age of 18; of those, 13 million married before age 15.

To address these top priority social issues, the Community-Based Dispute Resolution Mechanism and Improving Gender Just Access to Justice in Bangladesh project runs school campaign interventions in three districts (Rangpur, Barishal, and Pirojpur) of six upazilas (Rangpur Sadar, Badarganj, and Pirgacha, Barishal Sadar, Banaripara, and Kawkhali) of different schools. The primary aim of the intervention is to reduce child marriage, dowry, and domestic violence and others human rights issues at the community level, as well as aware the communities (students, guardians, teachers, and committee members) of its heavy impact on health and society. This meeting will help reduce child marriage and promote girl- child education in the community. It is expected that the target groups will work as multipliers at the community level and work to reduce child marriage, dowry, domestic and violence at the community level. During the period from September 2022 to August 2023, a total of 18 school campaign programs have been organized in six Upazilas of the three districts, whereas a total of 1579 students (boys- 572 and girls-1007) aged between 12 and 16 years, teachers, guardians, standing committee members, and community members participated. On that occasion, the staff of the Access to Justice project briefly discussed with the participants about the bad effects and negative health consequences of child marriage, as well as dowry, and domestic violence, and related laws such as the Child Marriage Restraint Act-217, the Dowry Prohibition Act-2018, and the Domestic Violence Prevention and Protection Act- 2010 also discussed in the campaign. During the discussion, participants are asked frequent questions and shared their experiences and feelings with the facilitator. On the other hand, school teachers, committee members, guardians, and community members also speak out about the issues. Among them, one of the committee members from Badarganj Upazila, MD. Kowasar Ahamed Sohel, said that “we must stop early marriage to secure our future. If one girl marriage before their age, her future is getting buried as well’’.

“Still, we gave less concentration to the girl’s future than boys. As a result, family-taken girls are like a burden. If they get married early, they feel less pressure. But we know we are equal. We must take initiatives to stop early marriage” – Emon Howlader, a student of class ten at Hogla High School, Kawkhali, Barishal”

“There is a proverb prevalent in our society that Meyara Kuritei Buri (girls are old at 20). Because of these stereotyped prejudices, many girls lose their desire journey very early age, and in those cases, parents are playing a very critical role. The parents stereotyped mentality needs to be changed first of all; without their guardian’s support, child marriage will not stop”- Hakim Howlader, Assistant teacher at Kagasura High School Barishal.

Another participant, Mst. Ayrin, Jafarganj School & College, Rangpur argues that “Divorce and Early marriage are like a death disease. Many of us fell into death at such an early age due to their early marriages. We must stay against this humiliating crime”.

Later in the discussion, different government hotline numbers, like 109 for women and child protection, 1098 especially for child protection, 16430 for legal aid services, and the emergency services 999 numbers, have been shared with the participants so that they could inform the relevant authority if any incidence occurred. In addition, 14 Child Marriage Protection Committee (9–14 members) has been formed in every campaigning (14) schools, along with teachers, committee members, guardians, and student representatives. The purpose of the formulated committee is to prevent and raise consciousness against early marriage and GBV-related violence and provide primary support to the victims.