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‘Married adolescent girls are not lost causes’

  • Published at 06:00 pm December 21st, 2020
child marriage
Representational photo: Reuters

Dhaka Tribune was the media partner of the event titled “IMAGE Plus policy brief sharing with the government”

Speakers at a webinar said adolescent girls who have been married off are not lost cause and if they get the right opportunity to get educated and develop different skill sets, they will be able to contribute to the country's GDP growth and bring positive changes in their community.

They were speaking at a webinar on the policy brief sharing with the government for Married Adolescent Girls’ Empowerment (IMAGE) Plus project, supported by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It was arranged by Terre des Hommes Netherlands in Bangladesh, the lead organization, alongside RedOrange Media and Communications, and implementing partners Terre des Hommes Foundation, SKS Foundation and Pollisree, read a press release published by Tress des Hommes on Monday. 

Dhaka Tribune was the media partner of the event titled “IMAGE Plus policy brief sharing with the government.” 

Mushfiqua Zaman Satiar, senior policy advisor (SRHR and gender) at the Netherlands Embassy, said this program tried to create a sustainable and strategic model for the married adolescent girls so that other organizations can replicate it throughout the country. 

She said: “There are three things that need to be focused on. These are -- education, legal framework, and access to service. And there is no alternative to education for the married adolescent girls.”

She added if married teens cannot have access to education, they would not be able to improve their situation. 

“Accessibility to health services should be ensured for both married girls and their husband as family planning should not be a burden only for the girls,” she said. 

Under the project, a total of 9,000 early-married girls have received quality services, including improved access to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) including MCH, nutrition, along with basic and vocational education and livelihood opportunities as well as reduced Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in Nilphamari, Gaibandha and Kurigram.

While presenting the policy brief, media professional, researcher, academic and team member of DevResonace Ltd Afsan Chowdhury dubbed the project a successful initiative that helped married adolescent girls to improve practice of SRHR, continue their education, get involved in income generation activities and dealing with gender based violence.

Lawmaker Aroma Dutta, vice president of Parliamentary Caucus on Child Rights said girls who were married off early should not be left out because they are young, because it is their time to shine. 

“If we can give them skills, they will have a great contribution to the growth of the country's GDP,” she said. 

Md Fazle Rabbi Miah, deputy speaker of the parliament, pointed out underage boys are also getting married and they have to deal with some sort of struggle like the girls. 

“Underage boys marrying underage girls are getting behind as well. We also need to look into this issue,” he said. 

“The government alone cannot help these girls to change their lives. We need a collaborative approach from the government, NGOs and common people,” he added. 

Mahmudul Kabir, country director of Terre des Hommes Netherlands, said every ministry should come forward to end child marriage as different types of factors are contributing to child marriage and collaborative approach is needed as one ministry cannot single-handedly end child marriage in Bangladesh.  

Dr Md Sarwar Bari, director (Finance) of the Directorate General of Family Planning mentioned about the role of DGFP in supporting the girls who were married early; and Dr Abul Hossain, project director of Multi-Sectoral Programme on Violence Against Women (MSPVAW), Department of Women Affairs also spoke at the webinar with suggestions on future intervention.