Boli Kotha Okopote | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, April 12, 2021 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:17 AM, April 12, 2021

Boli Kotha Okopote

The Daily Star and Tipping Point Initiative of CARE Bangladesh, with the support of The Kendeda Fund, jointly organised a discussion titled “Boli Kotha Okopote” on March 22, 2021. Here we publish a summary of the discussion.

Rawnak Jahan,

Team Leader, Care Bangladesh

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The rate of child marriage in Bangladesh is alarmingly high. The Tipping Point Initiative of CARE Bangladesh is addressing the root causes of child marriage through a social norms approach. Our work has revealed that people are aware of the negative aspects of child marriage but they are unaware of alternatives. Furthermore, it is not clear to many what benefits can be reaped if they invest in a girl child.

We have thoroughly studied the root causes of child marriage and have come across several factors—from people's uncertainties about the results of investing in a girl child's education to the many challenges standing in the way of girls' aspiration.

Tipping Point works to bring about a behavioural transformation in the community because child marriage cannot be stopped otherwise. The purpose of the discussion is to create a safe space where girls can share their issues, challenges, and make specific recommendations to relevant stakeholders. The Tipping Point initiative facilitates youth-led movement, since this is so much necessary at present.

Sehnila Jobayda Zafrin,

Radio Shadhin

The youths present here today are well aware of the importance of speaking up. Speaking up for our rights is the beginning of finding a solution. 

We dream of living in a world where we are all viewed as equals. How would the world be if we were seen simply as people and not just women?

Youth,

Protiki Jubo Sangshad

One of the biggest challenges faced by girls is eve-teasing. Parents hesitate to let their daughters out because of this issue. I have faced this issue myself but I pushed through it. I explained to my father that the work I am doing is good. Should girls not go out simply because of problems such as eve-teasing?

Our nation has strict laws regarding child marriage, but the laws themselves aren't sufficient. Awareness among people is necessary.

In cases where my parents do not agree to let me participate in activities, I try to make them see the positive side and ask about the problems they see and explain to them accordingly.

Youth,

Protiki Jubo Sangshad

For a girl, a mother's support is the most important, and to gain that support her trust must be earned. We need to understand their point of view while explaining how we are thinking.

Creating trust in the family is essential. We should make them believe that we are not going astray or engaging in activities perceived as harmful.

Adolescent Girl,

Tipping Point

Even at times when you win over your family's support, societal doubts remain. People ask if a girl can roam around as freely as a boy no matter how independent she is. They speak of how in the world today, no matter how trustworthy and careful your daughter is, she won't be able to defend herself against a male. People view women as weak. The question that keeps arising is, "If you let your daughter go everywhere and she faces an issue, will you be able to protect your daughter?"

Youth,

Protiki Jubo Sangshad

I think it is wrong to expect every member of society to support and accept what we do. If I can convince my parents that the work I am involved in is not negative but rather positive, I won't need to pay heed to most of society's comments. Society will try to restrict me, but if I achieve something, it will be those very members of society who will proudly mention how they know me.

At 17, I had received a marriage proposal. However, I strongly protested and the matter was fortunately laid to rest. Had I remained silent that day, I could have been married at 17. Raising your voice and speaking up for yourself can help solve problems.

We are unable to explore our talents because of archaic notions about what a woman can and cannot do.

We do raise our voices in many situations but in most cases, we cannot do so because of a lack of independence. We still need our parents to provide us with a roof over our heads. Even when we are victims of injustice, we are unable to say anything about it.

Youth,

Protiki Jubo Sangshad

When I was in class 3, I started working with an NGO. A committee called Child Forum consisting of 10 boys and 10 girls was formed. I was elected as the president and we conducted two meetings. However, by the third month, no girls were present there whereas all 10 boys were. We wanted to know why the 9 girls did not attend the meeting, and so we went over to their houses. The guardians stated they are girls and asked what they would do there.

In class four, one of my own classmates was about to fall victim to child marriage. But, when the matter reached my ears I communicated with the local police and higher officials and was able to successfully stop the wedding. 

Adolescent Girl,

Tipping Point

With the help of our affiliated organisations, we had decided to arrange a cricket match in our village where boys and girls would play together. The people of the village were strongly against this.

We wanted to show them that girls can partake in all activities. We explained to them that girls also need to play, and they have equal rights as boys to play in the field.

We did not listen to them and still arranged the game. The resulting audience turn-out was huge and at the end, the attending audience ended up requesting for more such events while agreeing to help in the organisation process.

Adolescent Girl,

Tipping Point

Tipping Point first came to our village in 2014. That was the first time we gathered together in a group and had fun. We discussed about our aspirations, our rights, and about leadership.

The young girls held sessions three days a week, and for one day the session was based on child marriage. Gradually, we started to explain to people the main causes underlying child marriage and its harmful impacts on the child, mother, and even the family.

We also conducted a survey to find out what prevented female youth from being able to move about freely and discussed our findings with the village elders.

Youth,

National Girl Child Advocacy Forum

Village people believe that early marriage is a show of honour. If girls are not married young, society considers them undesirable. Whenever I try to speak up against these issues, people label me as disrespectful. The problem is that the decision-making power of girls is taken away by families and society.

Women constantly have to prove themselves in their careers as well. If men and women are equal, employers think there's no reason to hire a woman unless she proves herself to be better than the man.

We tend to judge the capabilities of the genders based on their physical strength. We need to understand that capabilities are multi-faceted and physical strength alone cannot be a true marker of anyone's qualifications.

Youth,

Protiki Jubo Sangshad

If anyone reports a potential child marriage, police officers promise immediate action but do not carry out their duties as soon as they receive bribes.

We can't even explain why we shouldn't be forced to get married so soon because they deem us disrespectful and refuse to listen to our case.

Another point that bothers me is that girls are vilified for hanging out with boys, whereas boys aren't shamed for hanging out with girls, which is a blatant double standard.

Youth,

National Girl Child Advocacy Forum

Society tells us that we should cover up for our own good. Not covering ourselves will put us at risk of harm. This is conflicting—society is trying to protect and harm us simultaneously.

A married woman is expected to cook for her family, find a day-care for her children, and then go out to study or work. If women have to overcome so many hurdles to do the same work as men, they deserve more recognition and benefits.

Implementing sex education and having good touch/bad touch discussions at educational institutions can play a crucial role in decreasing the rate of child marriage.

We need to showcase more female role models in our textbooks so that young girls and their families realise that they can also achieve success.

Youth,

National Girl Child Advocacy Forum

Our government and NGOs have so many initiatives to support women, but there is no monitoring once the work progresses.

For example, women are increasingly being granted proper maternal leave, but this has, in turn, caused organisations to avoid hiring women since they do not want to give paid leaves.

Youth,

National Girl Child Advocacy Forum

My sisters and I grew up being afraid of our father and have never been able to open up to him. Thankfully, my mother has always been supportive. When I was younger, my mother had to leave the house secretly because my father believed women couldn't go outside their homes. I've also witnessed my father assaulting my mother on multiple occasions. Now that we've grown up, my mother can go out alone.

Youth,

Protiki Jubo Sangshad

My mother studied for her Bachelor's degree but unfortunately could not sit for the final examination. After the wedding, my dad did not allow my mother to sit for that final examination. His justification was that he did not marry a woman for her to be earning.

My father is a Master's degree-holder. How can this man with a master's degree have such a mentality?

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