Despite Bangladesh has made significant progress in major human development indicators, including education, healthcare and child and maternal death, it has yet to go far to achieve a satisfactory result in reducing child marriage. Bangladesh has the highest child marriage rate in south Asia while fourth highest in the world. To end child marriage the government, civil society, media and social and political leadership must join hand and take up strong and well-coordinated effort.
Experts said these at the 'Bangladesh Girl Summit 2014' today (Monday October 27) held at the Osmani Memorial Auditorium in the capital. The summit was held with an aim to raise an effective movement for the empowerment and development of girl children through preventing child marriage. BRAC took the initiative for this summit for the first time with support from Ministry of Women and Children Affairs and the Department for International Development (DFID). The event was organised by the National Committee for Bangladesh Girl Summit 2014, a committee which was formed by 23 organisations including BRAC.
Meher Afroze Chumki MP, State Minister of the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, attended the event as the chief guest. Lynne Featherstone MP, UK minister for international development, and Tariq-ul-Islam, secretary, Ministry of Women and Children Affairs, were present as special guests. Sir Fazle Hassan Abed, KCMG Founder and Chairperson of BRAC, chaired the event.
The daylong event started with the theme song of the event performed by a group led by famous singer Kona. Later interactive, live sessions were held participated in by stakeholders who declared solidarity and pledge against child marriage. An innovative 'Youth Voice' session was also arranged to bring forth the voices of the youth. Sheepa Hafiza, Director, Gender, Justice & Diversity and Migration Programme, gave the welcome speech. Noted writer and Chairperson of Bangladesh Shishu Academy, Selina Hossain, and Campaign For Popular Education Chairperson Rasheda K Choudhury also attended the event.
State Minister Meher Afroze Chumki said, 'Seventy per cent of women who are victims of torture in Bangladesh are from an age range of 13-18 years. Child marriage seriously affects work skill, which eventually affects the overall human rights situation. It is the reason Bangladesh government has taken up ending child marriage as its number one challenge'.
Ms Lynne Featherstone praised Bangladesh for its commitment pronounced at the July Girl Summit in London to end child marriage. 'Every girl has a right to childhood, and to a life free from violence and poverty. We must all play our part to alter girls’ social expectations, see them as valuable members of society, sources for hope for the future, and investments worth making,' she said.
Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, Chiarperson, BRAC said, 'The practice of child marriage has many deleterious effects on the societies where it occurs. Most obviously, it hurts the girl child herself by curtailing her opportunities for education and compromising her health and safety, thereby limiting her chances of achieving her full potential. There is also a profound impact on the next generation. South Asia is home to the highest number of malnourished children in the world. Girls who marry and bear children in their teens are unable to support the optimal growth and development of their offspring during pregnancy and the early years, resulting in significant numbers of low birth-weight babies and malnourished children'.
Bangladesh Girl Summit has been inspired by the UK Girls Summit held in London on July 22 this year and attended by the honourable Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, and other world leaders. The event is an outcome of a continued effort to bring together diverse groups and actors to build a collective commitment against child marriage, paving the way for initiatives that would bring an end to this vicious practice once and for all.