Speaking at the discussion, DG Parveen Akhter informed that the government plans to reduce the rate of child marriage under 15 to zero by 2022
Despite the extensive efforts of the government and different non-governmental organizations (NGOs), Bangladesh is facing difficulties to eradicate child marriage.
“Most child marriages are not being stopped. We observed that police and local administrations face obstacles when trying to stop child marriages,” said Department of Women Affairs Director General (DG) Parveen Akhter.
She made the remarks while speaking as the special guest at a webinar titled “Learning and Sharing IMAGE Plus.” The webinar was moderated by Mahmudul Kabir, country director of Terre des Hommes Netherlands, Bangladesh.
Arnob Chakrabarty, managing director of RedOrange opened the event saying: "Bangladesh has been doing tremendously well in the human development index, especially in the case of SRHR (Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights) and women empowerment. But child marriage still remains a problem in our society which needs to be addressed with high priority."
Dhaka Tribune was the media partner of the event.
The IMAGE Plus (Initiative for Married Adolescent Girls' Empowerment) project works for girls who are forced to marry early in Bangladesh and is now operational in a total of six unions of Kurigram, Gaibandha, and Nilphamari districts.
Speaking at the discussion, DG Parveen Akhter informed that the government plans to reduce the rate of child marriage under 15 to zero by 2022.
At present, the child marriage rate in Bangladesh is about 47%, as compared to around 64% in 2014.
Stressing the importance of women empowerment to stop child marriages, she said: “Women empowerment is being hindered due to the lack of access for women to the decision-making process. They play an insignificant part when it comes to earning, acquiring property, and even when it comes to family planning.
“People who are responsible for child marriages – such as marriage brokers, imams, religious teachers, priests among others – need counselling,” she said.
Mushfiqua Zaman Satiar, senior policy advisor to SRHR and Gender of The Netherlands Embassy, said women need to be more involved in economic activities.
“Economic empowerment or achievements help to uphold her [a woman’s] stature [in the family] strongly,” said Mushfiqua.
Mentioning that young girls and boys who are unmarried have also been included in the project, she said: “The information that the girls get [through the project], they could forward the same information to their families, as well as to the community.”
Dr Md Sarwar Bari, director (finance) of the Director General of Family Planning [DGFP], said: “Around 31% of adolescent girls get pregnant within a year of marriage and 21% of those are unplanned.”
Mentioning that Bangladesh has achieved success in reducing the fertility rate, DG Sarwar said: “Fertility rate was 6.3% in 1975, whereas it is 2.05% in 2018. Child marriages -- 59% of all the marriages in Bangladesh, high adolescent pregnancy rate, and unmet needs of this age group -- are the great barriers to achieving SDGs.”
Additional Secretary for the Ministry of Youth and Sports Md Abdul Karim said: “The government is focusing a lot on the nutritional needs of married adolescents. It is providing an allowance to breastfeeding mothers to protect the child from dwarfism and autism. It is also continuing efforts to lower the maternal mortality rate.”
He urged the authorities concerned to ensure antenatal care (ANC) and postnatal care (PNC) across the county to fulfil the government’s Vision 2041.
IMAGE Plus is jointly implemented by Terre des Hommes Netherlands, RedOrange Media and Communications, Pollisree, SKS Foundation, and Terre des Hommes Lausanne. The project is funded by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (EKN).
Gaibandha’s Aduri Akter, a member of IMAGE Plus, was a victim of child marriage. However, now she is working towards putting an end to it.
She has helped save more than 11 girls from domestic violence.
Besides, Aduri, saved the lives of several adolescent girls by calling national helpline numbers. “Preventing child marriages by calling the helpline numbers is very easy as the concerned take quick action in such cases.”