Published in The Daily Star on Oct. 30 ::
The prime prerequisites to ending violation of rights of children and adolescents in Bangladesh are raising social awareness, reducing poverty, ensuring schooling and enhancing skills, discussants told a meeting yesterday.
Comprehensive efforts of the government, civil society, non-government organisations, UN agencies and media are critical to resist the rights violation occurring through child marriage, gender based violence, social insecurity and poor access to sexual and reproductive health, they said.
The meeting, “Rights of the Adolescents and Youths” was jointly organised by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and The Daily Star at the latter’s office in the capital.
Delivering a presentation on behalf of The Daily Star, Dr Farhana Ahmad, national coordinator of White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood, said approximately 53 percent of urban and 70 percent of rural women were victims of child marriage while on an average, 12 percent of girls gave birth by the age of 15 in Bangladesh.
Dowry issues, security concerns and a high dropout rate (around 72 percent) at secondary schools directly contribute to child marriage, resulting in a high maternal mortality rate and birth of malnourished babies, she said.
UNFPA Representative in Dhaka Argentina Matavel Piccin urged children and adolescents to raise their voice and fight for protecting the rights while stressing on media’s role in building public awareness.
The Daily Star Editor and Publisher Mahfuz Anam said, “As a media institution, we are very much committed to work for promoting rights of adolescents and youths.” He emphasised on changing the public mindset and building awareness to change the situation.
Bangladesh Mahila Parishad President Ayesha Khanam said multisectoral approaches were necessary for protecting the rights and girl’s right to property must be ensured to empower them.
Enhancing skills of adolescents and creating job opportunities for them are very urgent both to protect their rights and for the fact that their numbers are fast increasing, said Population Council Bangladesh Country Director Ubaidur Rob.
Dhiraj Kumar Nath, urban health specialist of Asian Development Bank, opined building social resistance to check harassment and violence against women in urban areas.
School teachers and religion preachers can play an important role in raising public awareness, said SM Biplob, a human rights activist.
Association for Prevention of Septic Abortion, Bangladesh Director Altaf Hossain said gynaecologists should write on the adverse consequences of child marriage on a regular basis and the media should circulate it on a wide range.
Policymakers and civil rights groups must listen to the voices of children and adolescents to address their problems, said columnist and rights activist Parvez Babul.
Ismat Jahan Mouri of Jamuna Television said there should be different types of adolescents clubs or groups at every locality to discuss about their rights. “We are not properly aware about our rights. So, we want introduction of a system that will ensure our easy access to rights-related information,” said Shamima Islam Tumpa, a student of class X at Progoti High School in the capital’s Kalshi.
Moderating the function, The Daily Star Managing Editor Salehuddin Ahmed said there was no dearth of laws and policies in Bangladesh but their strict implementation was very essential to protect the rights.
The Daily Star Special Supplements Editor Shahnoor Wahid, Editor of The Independent’s medical journal Stethoscope Dr Maswoodur Rahman, Daily Observer Special Correspondent Saleem Samad and Daily Sun Special Correspondent Tarik Hasan Shahriar also spoke.