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Dhaka Tribune

Experts: Gender awareness is the key

According to a study, girls married by age 15 had a much higher probability of belonging to the least empowered class

Update : 23 Mar 2022, 08:19 PM

Experts on Wednesday stressed the importance of gender awareness skills and how they are transformative.

They were speaking at a seminar arranged by the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS), titled “ Skills that Empower Adolescent Girls: Some Evidence from an Intervention Research Study.” 

During her speech, Dr Sajeda Amin, senior associate of Population Council, said: “Empowerment of adolescents is an important development objective. The reasons behind focusing on adolescence are poorly understood and even the age group is not often similarly defined.”

Using data from the Bangladeshi Association for Life Skills, Income, and Knowledge for Adolescents (BALIKA) project, participants identified the latent classes before and after intervention.

BALIKA’s three-class model at baseline and a four-class model at endline showed optimal fit. 

The baseline survey started in 2013 and endline in 2015. The study was conducted through involving 9,000 girls aged 12-19 years. 

In both models, three distinct latent classes were observed–a least empowered class, a mobile and socially active class, and a socially-progressive class.

At endline, a fourth class emerged–the most empowered–that was mobile, socially active, and socially progressive.

The study also suggested that girls in the Gender Rights Awareness arm had the highest probability of belonging to the most empowered class. 

There were three intervention strategies–education, gender and livelihoods. At the beginning of the intervention, Muslim girls had a higher probability of belonging to the least empowered class while in the end, the probability was higher for non-Muslims.

According to the study, at baseline and endline, girls married by age 15 had a much higher probability of belonging to the least empowered class compared to their peers.

At endline, girls married after age 15 were more likely to be in the mobile socially active class. It meant that girls who marry early rather than later adolescence face greater restrictions in their movement and socialization.

“I am inclined to think that child marriage is probably a pathway to broader and multi-sectoral change. Girls’ marital status, religious affiliation, and parents’ level of education were predictive of class membership at baseline and endline,” said Dr Sajeda Amin.

Dr Binayak Sen, director general of  BIDS, mentioned that in the pre-intervention, 32% of girls were least empowered, which is better than in many other countries. 

“That means the way Bangladesh is working relentlessly for women’s education and empowerment has brought some degree of benefit,” he continued.

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