Despite signs of progress, Bangladesh continues to have one of the highest child marriage rates worldwide and the highest rate of marriage involving girls under 15. 52% of girls are married by their 18th birthday, and 18% by the age of 15 according to report of UNICEF. Save the Planet Bangladeh Country Manager Sohanur, 22, is capagining titiled Youth Say No to Child Marriage’ to building Child Marriage free Communites. Thi blogs about why he is still campaigning for an end to the practice in his country.
Engaging local Youth, Building Child Marriage free communities
Children are not fit for marriage or girl are not a product to sell. They have rights to colorful childhood. But my community scenario was different. Our girls were getting married at teenage period by forcing their parents. It nips in a bud full of dreams and education rights moving to a distorted life. Social safety and security promoting this harmful practice continued in my community as social norms.
In this context, I have started a social movement against child marriage at 2009 when I was a student of grade 9. One day I have heard in my class that one primary level girls are forcing to getting marriage by her parents close to our school. She was Jumur Akter (10) at Nathullbad village in Jhalakathi District. Receiving this message I have knocked my class Teacher Shukla Biswas and protesting this marriage support with Local administration, Police department, and Journalist Manik Saha. It was first child marriage which we can successfully be stoped.
In 2011 I have joined Active Citizens program of British Council and The Hunger Project. Involving this leadership program, My team have stopped 20 child marriage and take a major mass movement to build child Marriage free communities to keeping girl child in a spotlight Under `Save your girl child’ Social action project. Building impactfull partnership with community leaders, we have supported many girls to protesting child marriage and continuing their education, Rinku Rani Sarkar one of another girl Who gets forced marriage at 14. We supported to her with motivation to continue her education.
Youth led Policy Advocacy
Parliamentarians are uniquely positioned to take action to end child marriage- they can work to ensure the voices of girls are heard and can mobilise the political will and commitment needed to end child marriage.But We have faced high-level challenges on policy development .In September 2014, the Cabinet approved language that would lower the minimum age of marriage from 18 to 16 years for girls, resulting in international outcry. The Act was delayed and amended in 2016. the political will and commitment needed to end child marriage.
Addressing this challenge, We have initiated a mass movement and policy dialogue with lawmakers when Bangladesh government attempt to lowering the child marriage able age to 16 from 18. In this critical situation (2014-2017) , We have organized the mass campaign, sensitization with policy makers and raising collective voices against this bad decision in non violent and innovative ways . As like, Child Marriage Restraint Act 2017 was passed on 27th February 2017 by the National Parliament. The act has a provision for “special circumstances” which will now technically make child marriages legal . However, the Child Marriage Restraint Act 2017 includes a loophole where a court can allow child marriage in “special cases”.
The act does not explicitly define what those “special cases” might be. The new rule keeps the minimum marriageable age for females at 18 but relaxes the restriction for “special circumstances”, including for girls who elope, are raped or bear children out of wedlock. According to the new law, marriages involving underage brides or grooms will not be considered an offense if they take place with the consent of the court and the guardians in “special contexts” serving the “best interest” of the underage female.
Hence We have Initiated a youth led multimedia campahin tittled `Youth Say Not To Child Marriage’ and organize some protesting action and demanding proper rules and regulation with apply the right way of this special circumstance issue. You took some initiative with local administration, policy makers, media and communities like: Child Rights Assembly to ending child marriage, Barisal Divisional commissioner campaign to ending child marriage in district level with UNICEF. In this process , Barisal Deputy commissioner have declared this district as child marriage free at 2016.
The way to building child marriage free community’s movement was not smooth.I have faced a lot of challenges in his community like social norms, religious hindrance, political enforcement etc. But all challenges I have overcomed by my contribution. Unbeatable youth team and my passion is the main power to success and builds child marriage free Barisal.
Now I am advocating for ending child marriage in humanitarian context and climate change impacts because child marriage is increasing in the island is a coping strategy.
With 1.8 billion young people worldwide, we have the largest youth generation in history. Young people are affected by today’s greatest challenges but they are also the key to solving them.Sohanur and other Global Youth advocates are campaigning for an end to child marriage. Photo Credit: Girls Not Brides/2015
Mobilise youth for a stronger global movement to end child marriage!
It goes without saying that young people are directly affected by child marriage. Every year, 15 million girls are married before their 18th birthday. Pushing girls into adulthood far too quickly, child marriage harms their health, education, safety and financial independence.If we are to support child brides and help other girls to avoid child marriage, we need to listen to what they have to say and challenge our assumptions about what we think they need. We need to go beyond seeing youth as victims of child marriage, or beneficiaries of programmes, and acknowledge that they have a lot to contribute to the field. When we value, invest and meaningfully engage young people, they can become the champions that we need to end child marriage.