Bangladesh represented at Women Deliver conference in Denmark

Conferences organised by Women Deliver, a global advocacy organisation, are gaining recognition as one of the biggest global gatherings to focus on the health, rights, and well-being of girls and women.

Following three successful global conferences in London in 2007, in Washington in 2010, and in Kuala Lumpur in 2013, the 2016 Conference has brought together world leaders, advocates, policymakers, journalists, young people, researchers, and leaders of corporate companies and civil society. The conference in May this year has been one of the largest gathering on girls’ and woman’s health and rights in the last decade and one of the first major global conferences following the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

As one of 200 Global Young Leaders, young Bangladeshi columnist Rakibul Hasan attended the prestigious 4th Global Women Deliver conference, held from May 14-20 at Bella Center, in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The conference focused upon how to implement the SDGs so they matter most for girls and women, with a specific focus on health – in particular maternal, sexual, and reproductive health and rights – and on gender equality, education, environment, and economic empowerment.

More than 5,000 people attended the conference, including 2,000 organisations, 1,200 young people, 500 journalists, NGOs, UN agencies and government representatives, ie ministers and parliamentarians from over 150 countries.

Rakibul successfully represented Bangladesh in a number of events, among others, regional caucus, country meeting, panel sessions and young dialogue in the Danish capital of Copenhagen.

Being a fellow of Women Deliver in the United States, Rakibul has been working for a long period of time on the issues of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) of young adolescents, especially mainstreaming SRHR issues in news media through training young reporters, writing columns and publishing researches in international conferences and journals.

Giving priorities, percentage of Early Forced Marriage (EFM) and Violence against Women (VAW) can give us a clear understanding of how much it costs to be girls and women in Bangladeshi society.

About 66% girls are married off before they are just 18 (second highest in the world), when 60% girls bear their first child at the age of 19 and 10% of them get pregnant at only 15 years of age (ICRW, 2013).

Moreover, violence against women is simply a culture and regarded as trifling family issues in Bangladesh. As statistics show, around 90% women suffer psychophysical violence in their lifetime which is prevalent everywhere in Bangladesh (WHO, 2014).

Rakibul initiated a project called Peacempire that trains young people to be citizen journalists through the means of storytelling/reporting/blogging on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights to break the taboo and create awareness against early forced marriage and violence against women involving young advocates, aged 15 to 25, from three colleges, 10 secondary schools and five madrasas in underprivileged areas of Rupganj.

Through workshops and campaigns, community reporters, peer educators, young advocates and campaigners advocate against early marriage and gender violence there.

This project also forms a coalition bringing together SRHR experts, traditional leaders, political quarters, administrative bodies and victims in a quest to implement endurable practices dealing with it.

Thus, it tries to build the capacity of young advocates to effectively respond to EFM and VAW incidences with digital media, and other available social media outlets to ensure legal interventions and public engagements.

Besides, it educates young generations with information on the significance of comprehensive sexuality education and contraceptive usage.

Why is the project putting these two top priorities together? Child marriage and gender violence in Bangladesh are two negative social customs that mostly harm the well-being of girls and women. The project aims at reducing the rate of child marriage to help girls grow and simultaneously decrease the rate of violence against women to help them grow undisturbed in the particular area of responsibility.

These two notorious practices make girls feel inferior in society and paralyse their capacity to make decisions on their own, let alone the reproductive health rights.

Therefore, child marriage and gender violence are interlinked and identified as associated force in the project. Even though a bit ambitious for our society, the project has to be undertaken. It will educate the young SRHR advocates on the significance of contraceptive usage and sexuality education to break the taboos, stereotyped gender violence and infested child marriage.

“However, the area I was born and now work in, Rupganj, is the worst zone with early marriage and gender violence among major industrial hub of the country, because largest number of working women live here and the place has a number of slums and underprivileged areas, which is also the hotbed of other social crimes,” he adds.

The stories of early marriage and gender violence remain unheard and later go forgotten. Sometimes, other social crimes shade the gravity of gender violence.

Therefore, the youthled project titled Peacempire, literally referring to “safe haven” for girls and women, aims at creating a community journalism platform for storytelling, producing documentaries, short films, blogging and reporting on two burning issues – early forced marriage and gender violence against women in Rupganj area.