Action to be accelerated to end Child Marriage in Bangladesh

News Hour:

Child marriage is a matter of pressing concern for Bangladesh. Although Bangladesh has made considerable progress in several socio-economic indicators, the norm of the marrying of girl child at early ages still persists in the society.

Population Council in partnership with the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs (MoWCA) and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), is implementing a project titled, “Accelerating Action to End Child Marriage”. This project is generously funded by the Governments of Canada, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the European Union.

An exciting event is going to be organized where baseline survey findings of the project were shared and discussed on multifaceted issues around child marriages were led by experts. The event was held on Monday, 23 October 2017 from 2:30 pm to 5:30 pm at the Amari, Dhaka.

The intervention research study on adolescent girls entitled, “Accelerating Action to End Child Marriage”, is designed to improve the well-being of Bangladesh’s adolescent girls by improving their skills and norms in their community to address problems of child marriage.

The aim is to identify ways through which a sustainable, community-owned skill-building activities for adolescent girls can be ensured. The project is a randomized control trial (RTC) research involving 13,000 girls aged 10-19 years in 72 communities of Bogra and Jamalpur districts of Bangladesh. The research design of this project is built upon the evidence gathered from a similar type of skill-building project titled “BALIKA” implemented from 2012-2016.

KEY FINDINGS FROM THE BASELINE SURVEY:
MARRIAGE AND DOWRY:
  • The mean age of marriage was consistent in both Bogra (age 14.7) and Jamalpur (age 15) district. Percentage of girls married was higher in Bogra (24%) compared to Jamalpur (14%)
  • Percentage of married girls current age below 18- 16.5 % Bogra, 8.9 % Jamalpur. Marriage still occurs early and is associated with high levels of demands of dowry by grooms even though campaigns to raise awareness about child marriage and evils of dowry are common. Overall 54% of married girls reported that a dowry was paid as part of her marriage
  • The practice of effective contraception appears to begin only after first birth perhaps because use is inconsistent or because young brides are expected to demonstrate their ability to have children soon after marriage
EDUCATION:
  • More than 80% of the adolescents were enrolled in school in both districts and Jamalpur had a higher enrollment rate (89%), compared to Bogra (78%). However, with an increase in age percentage of school enrollment decreases. Despite high levels of school-going, learning achievements remain low, particularly in the acquisition of English language and numeracy skills.
  • Marriage has been reported as one of the key reasons for school discontinuation of girls. Overall 61% girls reported that they left school to be married.
  • Those who are married, less educated, and young are less aware of gender equality and rights including domestic violence, autonomy, and confidence.
SOCIAL LIFE ON GENDER PERSPECTIVE:  
  • The lives of girls in Bogra and Jamalpur seem similarly constrained by restrictions on their mobility, high levels of physical and sexual insecurity and a normative environment that is accepting of violence against women. Alarmingly high proportions of girls blame the victims for the violence that is perpetrated against them.
  • These data suggest that providing skills and creating a supportive and enabling environment can be important ways of creating opportunities for girls.
  • By improving learning abilities and skills, the program can help to build confidence and change the perceptions about girls so that child marriage is not a preferred option.

Ms. Meher Afroze Chumki, MP, Honorable State Minister, Ministry of Women and Children Affairs (MoWCA), Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh has kindly consented to grace the event as the chief guest. Ms. Nasima Begum, NDC, Secretary, Ministry of Women and Children Affairs (MoWCA), and Iori Kato, Representative a.i., United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), were present as special guests. Programmatic and policy implications of evidence revealed in investigations on the lives of rural adolescent girls was discussed. Mr. A.K.M.Zafar Ullah Khan, Senior Policy Advisor, Population Council chaired the event.

The program starts with the welcome speech of Dr. Ubaidur Rob, Country Director of Population Council, Bangladesh. After that Ms. Eshani Ruwanpura, Adolescent and Youth Specialist, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) presented on the global program to accelerate action to end child marriage and an overview of the Bangladesh project. Then Dr. Sajeda Amin, Senior Associate and Principal Investigator of the project presented the baseline findings of the project.

Later a panel discussion was held, moderated by the chair Mr. A.K.M.Zafar Ullah Khan and facilitated by Dr. Sajeda Amin. The expert panel discussed existing policy and practices of child marriage and on reducing their age at marriage by providing alternative strategies in expanding opportunities for adolescent girls. The program ended with vote of thanks by Ms. Johana Ahmed, Program Manager, Population Council.

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