Early marriage on the rise amid Covid pandemic
A new campaign has been launched to encourage people to condemn child marriage in Bangladesh, a practice that has thrived in the shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The initiative, “Actions to Prevent Child Marriage in Bangladesh”, is also designed to support every girl’s dream to achieve their aspirations and will help advance the objectives of Bangladesh’s 10-year National Plan of Action to End Child Marriage (2018-2030).
The campaign, supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), will seek to collect one million pledges from adolescents, parents, community leaders, policymakers, business leaders and civil society representatives to prevent child marriage.
This will remind people that everyone has a responsibility to protect girls from early marriage, create a safe and healthy environment for girls and boys in their communities to help them reach their full potential in life, which in turn, would benefit the society, said the US Embassy in Dhaka.
“Child marriage is a human rights violation. We all must take charge to end a complex issue like child marriage that requires efforts along many fronts," said Xerses Sidhwa, director of the Office of Population, Health, Nutrition and Education of USAID.
USAID will continue to work to protect young Bangladeshis from this practice and work alongside the government of Bangladesh and other partners to eliminate child marriage, which undermines efforts to promote sustainable development, said Sidhwa.
Speaking at the launch event, Women and Children Affairs Secretary Md Sayedul Islam said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is committed to eliminate child marriage from Bangladesh by 2041.
"The government, development partners, non-government organizations, the private sector and relevant stakeholders must work together to make it a reality.”
He thanked USAID for initiating the campaign to help prevent child marriage.
Amir Hossain, director of Information, Education, Motivation unit of the Directorate General of Family Planning, officials of the US Embassy in Bangladesh, and representatives of other national and international organizations also attended the event.
Bangladesh has made notable progress in curbing child marriage, with several studies showing a decline in the practice.
Proportion of girls who married before the age of 16 declined from 46% to 32% between 2007 and 2017, while those who married before 18 (the legal age) fell from 66% to 59%, according to those studies.
However, Bangladesh is witnessing a sharp rise in child marriages amid the Covid-19 pandemic, driven by multiple factors including reduced income, especially in lower-income families, and school closures, said the US Embassy.
USAID’s Ujjiban Social Behaviour Change Communication project, implemented by Johns Hopkins University, is leading the public awareness campaign highlighting the health risks of early pregnancy and the high returns of investing in girls’ education.
The campaign will also help generate awareness about the current law in Bangladesh that prohibits child marriage, instruct people how to use existing mechanisms to report incidents in their community and help victims.