Gender-based Violence Platform Member Combats Early Marriage.
In Bangladesh, young girls under the age of eighteen are often married off by their families as a way to bring income through dowries. Counterpart International’s Promoting Advocacy and Rights Program in Bangladesh supports the Rupantar consortium in combatting gender-based violence and early marriage on a district and sub-district level. In 2020, Rupantar established gender-based platforms to bring together diverse stakeholders from local communities, including civil society leaders, journalists, women, ethnic minorities, and other vulnerable populations. These platforms work to address policy gaps in the Government of Bangladesh’s response to gender-based violence and advocate in local communities to prevent future incidents.
Mahmud Hasan is the co-convener of the Kawkhali Upazila Platform and is an active member of the Shialkathi Union Parishad. Since joining the platform established by Rupantar, he has expanded the scope of his activism to be gender-sensitive and has become involved in women’s rights movements in his Upazila. After being selected as co-convener of the sub-district platform, Mr. Hasan gave the following insight:
“As an elected representative, I always try to protect women and girls from being victimized. Due to the pandemic, early marriage and domestic violence have increased. An in this situation, we have a special platform to fight against those crimes.”
In September of 2020, Mr. Hasan was involved in stopping the early marriage of an eighth-grade student to a much older grocer in a neighboring village. The young girl’s father had arranged an early marriage because his income had recently decreased due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He was struggling to put food on the table for his family of 8. By marrying his oldest daughter, the eighth-grader, he would be able to earn some money and the long-term financial burden on his family would decrease.
However, the word of the wedding began to travel. Mr. Hasan, the co-convener of the Kawkhali platform, traveled with members of the Falaibunia Udayan Youth Organization to the home of young students. Mr. Hasan and the Youth Organization explained the dangers of child marriage, explaining that it is not only detrimental to a child’s mental and physical health but also disrupts healthy patterns of society and family culture. After a discussion of the negative impacts of early marriage and the possibility of law enforcement involvement, the father decided to not go through with the marriage.
Afterward, Mahmud Hasan shared his experience with his local Upazila Parishad chairperson, who has since decided to start making more substantial efforts to raise awareness about child marriage. Mr. Hasan’s experience demonstrates the ability of local platforms to mobilize communities to address priority issues and to use successes to gain government buy-in to pursuing long-term solutions.