Dhaka Tribune was the media partner of the event titled 'IMAGE Plus Policy Brief Sharing with the Government'
On Monday, December 21, a webinar on policy brief sharing with the government for the Initiatives for Married Adolescent Girls’ Empowerment (IMAGE) Plus project, supported by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, was arranged by Terre des Hommes Netherlands in Bangladesh, alongside RedOrange Media and Communications, and implementing partners Terre des Hommes Foundation, SKS Foundation and Pollisree.
Dhaka Tribune was the media partner of the event titled “IMAGE Plus Policy Brief Sharing with the Government.”
At the webinar, representatives of the government and civil society organizations discussed the problems faced by early married girls and policy level changes should be made in order to take early married girls in the mainstream of development.
The webinar was chaired by Mahmudul Kabir, country director of Terre des Hommes Netherlands, Bangladesh.
Arnob Chakrabarty, managing director of RedOrange Media and Communications, delivered the welcome speech.
Afsan Chowdhury, media professional, researcher, academic and team member of Dev Resonance, delivered a presentation on the IMAGE Plus project’s policy brief along with Nazme Sabina, lead consultant of Dev Resonance.
Adolescent girls who have been married off are not lost causes, and if they get the right opportunities to become educated and develop various skill sets, they will be able to contribute to the country's GDP growth and bring positive changes in their communities, speakers at the webinar said.
The IMAGE Plus project is trying to help these girls get ahead and build a better future for themselves.
Under the project, a total of 9,000 early-married girls have received quality services, including improved access to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) including MCH, nutrition, along with basic and vocational education and livelihood opportunities as well as reduced gender-based violence (GBV) in Nilphamari, Gaibandha and Kurigram.
IMAGE Plus is now operational in six unions of the three districts. The local and national level SBCC awareness and advocacy campaign has been implemented to positively influence social norms, attitudes and practices.
Almost all kinds of media and tools defined under social and mass media communication have been utilized in IMAGE Plus for SBCC, awareness and advocacy.
Afsan Chowdhury, Media professional, researcher, academic; team member of DevResonance Ltd The project was a successful initiative that helped married adolescent girls to improve practice of SRHR, continue their education, get involved in income generation activities and deal with gender- based violence.
In the 6 years of the project, it strived to reduce some of the ill effects of child marriage through a series of interventions that started with live saving solutions such as institutional deliveries and improved health care practice to addressing gender and social violence.
It was not easy to bring such positive changes in these girls’ lives in only six years.
Some of the major problems these married girls face are early pregnancy, combined with limited access to healthcare, which makes adolescent mothers twice as likely as older mothers to die during childbirth and experience life threatening issues.
Early marriage denies girls’ education opportunities, limiting their socio-economic potential.
They face cultural and legal obstacles in returning to school. Sometimes, pregnancy prevents them from attending classes and some may change schools after marriage, causing them to face readmission and other challenges. As dropouts with no necessary skills, they are unable to enter the labour market and are forced to economically depend on husbands for money, causing loss of freedom. Early married girls also experience higher levels of physical, economical, and psychological violence.
The major points as observations for policy makers are increasing access to and uptake of health and family planning services, enabling systems for continuous learning so that these girls can at least continue learning from home whether that be mediated through television or internet, encouraging customized skill training for dynamic markets, and encouraging access to communication technologyto aide holistic learning and supporting accountability.
Nazme Sabina, Lead Consultant, DevResonance Ltd I would like to highlight a few changes revealed from the recently conducted end-line study.
While we saw tremendous increase in institutional delivery and increased knowledge on gender-based violence, we have also seen that the young girls and their spouses were not much aware of intercourse and family planning thus may have resulted in trauma for some.
First, it has been found that the concept of sexual life and sharing the usage of contraceptives has been changed among the spouses. Second, in continuation of education or any professional work, thefamily members are supporting early married girls by household chores and child rearing.
Third, the spouses and the community are mobilized to provide 24-hour emergency transport support for general and maternal health services by forming a group which is an exceptional community-based initiative.
Lastly, the relation between early married girls and government community health workers has been strengthened which was especially found in Covid-19 period.
These show that change is possible with targeted and concentrated effort.
Mushfiqua Zaman Satiar, Senior Policy Advisor (SRHR and Gender) at the Netherlands Embassy There are three things that need to be focused on. These are - education, legal framework, and access to services.
There is no alternative to education for the married adolescent girls. If married teens cannot have access to education, they will not be able to improve their situation. There are significant laws and policies in Bangladesh but implementation of those laws and policies is important.
It is very important to enforce the Child Marriage Restraint Act 2017, otherwise the target cannot be reached within 2041.
Accessibility to health services should be ensured for both married girls and their husband, as family planning should not be a burden only for the girls.
e IMAGE Plus program tried to create a sustainable and strategic model for the married adolescent girls, so that the Government and other organizations can replicate it throughout the country
Aroma Dutta, MP and Vice President of Parliamentary Caucus on Child Rights IMAGE Plus is a practical program with a multi-sectoral, collaborative and coordinated approach.
There are so many cultural, religious, and social factors contributing to early marriage.
However, child marriage should not be the end of their dreams. Girls who were married off early should not be left out because they are young, because it is their time to shine. They are our assets.
If we can give them skills, they will have a great contribution to the growth of the country's GDP.
The IMAGE Plus project has become a success because of its community approach.
The community was a major stakeholder in this project. The change will sustain within the community.
The IMAGE Plus project has created a model for the development of married adolescent girls which can be reviewed for replication in future.
Md Fazle Rabbi Miah, MP, Deputy Speaker of Bangladesh parliament Underage boys are also getting married and they must deal with some sort of struggle like the girls.
Underage boys who marry underage girls are falling behind as well.
We also need to look into this issue.
Married adolescent girls’ reproductive health should be monitored carefully.
Government institutions should conduct research for identifying the real scenario of early marriage and collect updated data.
But the government alone cannot help these girls to change their lives.
We need a collaborative approach from the government, NGOs, intellectuals, and common people.
Let us sit together, let us work together, and let us achieve together.
If a similar project is designed in the future, taking initiatives in Khulna & Chittagong Division is recommended.
I believe if we work together, we will be able to meet the commitment of the prime minister to end child marriage by 2041.
Dr Md Sarwar Bari, Director (Finance) of the Directorate General of Family Planning The goal and objectives of IMAGE Plus project is highly aligned with the goal of the family planning department.
At the same time, the achievements of the project are integrated with us.
We can consider the project learnings in our work.
The Ministry of Health & Family Planning has taken a nutrition and population strategy for establishing an equitable quality health service system.
IMAGE has contributed to this in the case of facility improvement of Union Health Centre, activation of management committees, facilitating service delivery, improving client referral and reducing early marriage.
Considering the demographic changes, the family planning department is not only concentrating on family planning, also working on family wellbeing which is focused on adolescent health and safe motherhood to take maternal mortality into zero.
We need to ensure reproductive rights and sexual health of these young girls for their betterment.
If their reproductive rights are ensured they will get ahead.
Now the local family planning facilities have a special corner to provide advice and services to adolescent girls.
Men need to be included in the family planning as well.
The recommendations from the policy brief need to be disseminated throughout the country.
Dr Abul Hossain, Project Director of the Multi-Sectoral Program on Violence Against Women (MSPVAW), Ministry of Women And Children Affairs The districts this project covered are kind of identical.
This project could have expanded its activities to places like Sylhet division or Chittagong Hill Tracts.
I think the success of the IMAGE Plus project is the collaborative approach it took to carry out the project.
This project brought a positive attitude and behavioural changes in family members, in-laws and neighbours of the married girls.
This policy brief and findings of the study should be shared with all stakeholders from government and non-governmental organizations, so that they can run projects like this across the country.
Mahmudul Kabir, Country Director of Terre des Hommes Netherlands NGOs working in different fields including micro credit should come forward in ending child marriage as an important issue. Every ministry should come forward to end child marriage, as different types of factors are contributing to child marriage.
A collaborative approach is needed, as one ministry cannot single-handedly end child marriage in Bangladesh.
We tried to help these girls get the services they are entitled to get from the government.
The representatives of relevant local Government authorities from different ministries at the local level have been very supportive.
Arnob Chakrabarty, Managing Director, RedOrange Media and Communications ltd Every year, thousands of girls become victims of child marriage and later they become invisible.
Their life is miserable beyond measure.
The aim of IMAGE Plus project was to put them out of their misery and make them a self-directed human being.
Also, we wanted to bring these girls to the social agenda.
These girls are children, and no one has the right to deprive them off their rights as a child just because they were married off by their family.
The IMAGE Plus project is a unique one as we started to work for a special category of beneficiaries – early married girls.
When we started, not many initiatives were working in favour of this group. Due to this uniqueness, the project was designed.
In 2 phases consisting of 6 years, 9000 early married girls were covered by the project.
We have not provided them with any financial support or micro-credit, rather we worked for their social and behavioural change.
We helped them realize their situation and developed a communication strategy and huge number of resource materials.
Recently, we have shared the best practices of the project, which were appreciated by the government and CSOs; and recommended to be used in future programming.
Rasel Ahmed Liton, Chief Executive, SKS Foundation, Gaibandha We are blessed that we got the opportunity to work in the IMAGE Plus Project.
I would like to mention two points.
First, concerning adolescent girls who are dropping out from education after getting married at an early age, I recommend a policy change to avoid discontinuation of education of married adolescent girls; Second, the married adolescent girls could continue education if they have money in their hand.
The government is requested to think about this; Hon’ble Deputy Speaker or MPs can raise the matter in Parliamentarian discussion.
Motia Begum Mukty, District Coordinator, IMAGE Plus, Pollisree At the beginning, we were worried that the initiatives of IMAGE Plus project might encourage early
marriage but it has been proven that it has actually contributed to decrease child marriage.
My few recommendations to the policy makers: strictly maintain and monitor the birth registration process; activate the union-based committees for preventing early marriage and withdraw the bar of 3 years break of study to get back the early married girls to education.
Pronab Kumar Roy, Office-in-charge, TdH Foundation, Kurigram From the learning we achieved from this IMAGE Plus project, I recommend to put a few initiatives plans under the upcoming Strategic Plan of the Ministry of Health & Family Planning of Bangladesh.
● Engage the local community
● Increase access to and update of health and family planning services
● Execute the ‘Leave No One Behind’ principle in line with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
● Create access of Early Married Girls to different services
● Enable system for continuous learning
● Encourage customized skill training
● Ensure availability of IMAGE Plus developed communications materials for easy access for
● Initiate marriage preparedness counselling
● Reach married girls as early as possible
● Monitor Early Married couples intensely
● Aware adolescent girls on rights and bring them to manage earnings
● Make the age and time bar flexible for Early Married Girls to continue education
● Widen IMAGE Plus activities to other areas of the country
● Initiate a Government database on Early Married Girls issues
● Raise Early Married Girls’ issues to the parliament by the Members of Parliament
● Engage more men and boys
● Implement Child Marriage Restraint Act 2017 and National Plan of Action effectively
● Focus on the issues of early marriage of boys Some of the achievements of this project includes:
● Birth spacing by 3 years increased 37%
● Institutional delivery increased by 14% in 3 years
● At least four antenatal care services increased from 68% to 79%
● Four postnatal care services increased from 12% to 44%
● Contraceptive use increased from 73% to 99%
● Early Married Girls in education increased from 6% to 7%
● Early Married Girls participating in skill and vocational training for income generating activities increased from 14% to 22%
● 21% more girls were involved in income generation activities by end of the project