The incentives may help prevent families from thinking of girls as financial burdens, speakers say
The government is planning to provide incentives to families with 15-18-year-old girls in an attempt to reduce the rate of child marriage in the country, State Minister for Women and Children Affairs Meher Afroz Chumki has said.
She was speaking at a seminar on the theme, “'The role of positive environment in self-development of adolescents”, on Monday. The seminar was jointly organized by Unilever Bangladesh, Plan International Bangladesh and Children Affairs Journalist Network (CAJN) at a Dhaka hotel to commemorate the International Day of the Girl Child in the country.
Chumki said the government had targeted eradicating child marriage of girls under the age of 15 by 2021, adding that the plan would have been successful had it not been for the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We almost reached our goal, but the Covid-19 pandemic hampered our efforts and child marriage has increased. The government has taken up various plans and initiatives to prevent child marriage across the country, even in remote areas,” she added.
The initiatives include the formation of committees with district child affairs officers, member-chairpersons, officers-in-charge of police stations, and other officials to prevent child marriage. Legal action is also being taken over child marriage.
“Despite improvements to the legal system and awareness campaigns, child marriages are continuing in secret,” Chumki said, suggesting an alternative approach to solving the issue.
“The government is planning to give specific incentives to families that have girls aged 15-18, so that families do not feel burdened by the girls. NGOs should come forward to assist with this initiative,” she said.
Panelists spoke on how the media, civil society and development partners, brands and the government can work together to create a positive social environment for children and adolescents so that they can have confidence and learn non-verbal communication in the current context.
Meher Afroz Chumki inaugurated the Dove Self-Esteem Project (DSEP) at the event, a joint venture of Unilever Bangladesh (UBL) and Plan International Bangladesh. DSEP is working to help the next generation, especially women and children, grow up with a positive outlook on their physical appearance and make the most of their potential.
The global initiative has already reached the doorsteps of 35 million people in 142 countries.
Zaved Akhtar, CEO and managing director of Unilever Bangladesh Limited (UBL), said the efforts of business organizations for the development of women and children needed to be considered.
Ram Chandra Das, Director General of the Department of Women Affairs, said: “Child marriage is a major obstacle to the progress of girls. Child marriage prevention committees in our villages is a good step. However, the rate of child marriage has skyrocketed during the pandemic due to a lack of adequate monitoring.”
Orla Murphy, Country Director of Plan International Bangladesh, said: “NGOs are playing an important role in bringing together the voices of all walks of life. While conducting our activities in this country, we are getting unprecedented response from the youth. They encourage us and help us solve local problems in many ways.”
In addition, several adolescents discussed development and confidence building issues at the program.