Later on October 8, they also organised the consecutive second event, which included a drama performance, drawing a crowd of 579 local audiences, over 340 students in a rally, 499 petition signatures and about 107 participants in a workshop at an Islamic seminary called “Baraloo Paragaon Batenia Dakhil Madrasa” in the district.
Peacempire is among the top 20 global advocacy solutions for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR). Sponsored by Women Deliver and Johnson and Johnson, it advances through three major activities, which include workshops, campaigns and building coalition on sexual and reproductive health and rights advocacy to reduce the rate of early forced marriage and violence against women by 30%, involving young people, aged 12 to 25 in the underprivileged areas of Rupganj subdistrict, Bangladesh. The project also forms a coalition bringing together SRHR experts, traditional leaders, political quarters, administrative bodies and victims in monthly social campaigns. Thus it equips young advocates with capacity to effectively respond to child marriage and gender violence through citizen journalism and digital media facilities, ie, common cellphone hotline, social media outlets etc, to ensure legal interventions and public engagements in the area.
The workshop has four core sessions – ice-breaking, focus session, brainstorming, essay competitions and survey. From grades 7 to 10, top 20 students are selected on the merit list from different sections of a school, which sum up to a little over 100 students in total for a duration of two hours. Experts address the focus session titled “Understanding the Local Context of Child Marriage and Gender Violence”. On September 1 this year, Debashis Bhattacharjee from Youth School for Social Entrepreneurs, conducted the focus session at Murapara Model Pilot High School and later on September 8, Rafiqul Alam Khan from South Asian Youth Society presided over another focus session at Baraloo Paragaon Batenia Dakhil Madrasa. During the workshop, two facilitators cooperated with attendees to help brainstorm on “Causes, Effects and Preventions of Child Marriage and Gender Violence”.
Participants wrote their opinions on colourful sticky-pads to be glued with artboard papers on the walls. On both the days, a total of six essays received mementos under the categories of two winners, two first runners up and two second runners up. Finally, undertaking surveys marked the end of the workshop activities. In this session, students filled up attendance sheets and chose their roles out of four given priorities of “Popular Opponents”— reporters, educators, advocates and campaigners.
The campaigns included both infield and online activism. Offline activism included a rally and a roadshow, two hand-imprint ceremonies, 10 street interviews, 1103 petition signatures, a drama production, mimes, etc. On the other hand, digital activism is underway to establish common cellphone hotline, social media outlets, producing documentaries/short films, blogging, storytelling, reporting and creating apps to be available in the Peacempire website soon.
Finally, there's the coalition and club formation activities. The multi-actoral coalition included five SRHR experts/practitioners, 11 religious leaders, six traditional leaders, three policy makers, 15 local media workers/journalists, political quarters, administrative bodies and victims. Since some of the religious/traditional leaders propagate early marriage, justify violence against women and discourage contraceptives, the project educates and engages religious quarters in SRHR practices. The popular teachings advocate early marriage of girls to protect their virginity/purity from adultery, an absolute misinterpretation of religion. Therefore, as a religious solution to religious challenge, the project aims at finding a positive religious explanation in the light of holy scriptures. On the other hand, the club consists of “Popular Opponents” of all four categories. With regular follow-ups, the club members will be further trained up to write, blog and help make video documentaries for the website and other social media channels.
Thus the project will directly benefit 2022 people, while indirectly outreaching more than 17402 beneficiaries and 50000 virtual beneficiaries in 34 villages and beyond. The unique outcome of the project is drawing a popular end to the culture of indifference and violence against girls and women in the area. This project finds enduring solutions through the establishment of permanent website and social media channels, which will continue beyond the project time-line.
The writer is a Women Deliver fellow, USA. He can be reached at [email protected]