Highlights of Initiatives Addressing Child Marriage in Bangladesh Part 2
Dr. Sushmita Ahmed
Team Leader, Hello, I Am (HIA)
Population Services and Training Center
‘Hello, I am’ project aims to reduce, and gradually stop child marriage by addressing cultural norms revolving around child marriage in Bangladesh. It is currently operating in 6 upazilas. 18 new parents and adolescents are trained in every 6 months.
The root cause of child marriage is not only poverty but other factors like eve-teasing, stalking and societal pressure play a huge role too. ‘Hello, I am’ aims to change the conservative mindset of people residing in rural areas through face-to-face sessions and edutainment via television and social media. They approach communities by screening TV shows to adolescents and their parents. Edutainment serves as a light mode of entertainment that does the job of portraying the root cause of early marriages and knocking their conscious minds. The project encourages the strengthening of relationships between parents and their children so that they can understand each other and talk freely about gender issues at home. The project aims to increase life skills of adolescent girls and make sure that there are fewer school dropouts by motivating them to continue their education. The project also involves members of the community police, health workers and community leaders to maintain sustainability for the future.
This way the project aims to build capacity, socialise and follow up with the trained groups. After follow-ups, change of behaviour was seen among the adolescents. They understood the value of education. Interactive sessions were successful at motivating them.
A few learnings that were discovered through the project are that: some kazis are responsible for high numbers of child marriage, ward councillors often don’t register marriages after checking birth certificates, ward councillors and doctors often provide fake birth certificates.
Some challenges that were faced while carrying out the project are: fathers were unable to attend sessions as seminar dates fell on their working days, conservative parents could not deal with sessions on gender learning, parents often dropped out of sessions, most of the times the volunteers were not educated.