National Event on ‘Early Married Girls’
‘Image PLUS’ organised a national event on December 11, 2018, focussing on ‘Early Married Girls’ in the capital’s Spectra Convention Hall as part of the ‘16 days of activism’ campaign.
‘Image PLUS’, a project that operates under Terres des Hommes Netherlands, is an initiative that helps empower married adolescent girls. The objective of the event was to hear experiences of gender-based violence from girls who were married in their adolescence. Kazi Rowshan Akhtar, Director General, Director of Women Affairs, MoWCA, was present as the Chief Guest.
The event brought together members from partner, government and non-government organisations. Mahmudul Kabir, Country Director, Terres Des Hommes Netherlands, welcomed everybody and stated the purpose of the event. He said, “Gender-based violence is everywhere, it is not a class-based issue. We hope to see a better future brought by the work that everyone does.”
Two men and two women who were married during their adolescence shared their experiences. Abed Ali was married to a 14-year-old girl at the age of 17 under his family’s pressure. Shapla was married at the age of 16 under societal pressure. When her mother was sick, her family thought that she must be married off immediately because it would be difficult to get her married later if her mother dies. A young couple, Monjuara Begum (married at 13) and her spouse, Md Belal Mian (married at 15), had to undergo a lot of difficulties because of their early marriage.
Abed Ali admitted that he was guilty of raising hands on his wife when there was turmoil in the house, but later, after being educated and made aware by Image PLUS, he checked himself. Monjuara Begum’s in-laws used to pressurise her for dowry, however, her husband was not interested in any kind of dowry. Both her husband and she had to hear disrespectful taunts from the family because of this reason. Dowry was the main cause of unrest in their home. Monjuara said, “A girl has to tolerate a lot of insult and disrespect from their in-laws because of dowry.”
Shapla was a victim of domestic violence from her husband and his parents. She was forced to take a job and hand over her entire salary to her in-laws. Later, she and her family attended sessions organised by IMAGE in her area, which gradually helped her husband and in-law’s attitude change towards her. She said, “One must not shy away from disclosing family matters to people who can help.”
IMAGE Plus Partners and distinguished guests shared their experiences in the field of gender violence and child marriage. Nakib Rajib Ahmed, Head of Programme, RedOrange Media and Communications, said that a storytelling approach using audiovisual material can play a huge role to create awareness among the masses. Farhana J Hasan, Project Director, IMAGE Plus said, “IMAGE Plus has given girls a platform to discuss their problems. Men are coming forward to speak up too, but not very openly. We can move even more forward if they open up more.”
The CSO Platform Representatives – Girls Not Brides (GNB) Bangladesh, National Girl Child Advocacy Forum (NGCAF), Amrai Pari ( WE CAN) Bangladesh, and Share-Net Bangladesh, discussed on how their platforms are linked to the issue of gender-based violence towards early married girls.
Anika Binte Habib, Country Coordinator, Share-Net Bangladesh, spoke about the role played by Share-Net Bangladesh as a knowledge platform on SRHR, and how the platform aims to bring together Communities of Practice (CoP) to collaborate and find solutions for SRHR issues including child marriage and gender-based violence.
Mahmudul Kabir, Country Director, Terres Des Hommes Netherlands, concluded the event by thanking everyone, especially the Changemakers for their contribution towards making a change in society.