Dhaka: Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu on Thursday inaugurated ‘Hello I Am-HIA’, a four-year programme towards ending child marriage through creating a supportive social environment challenging the socio-cultural norms that endorse child marriages.
Population Services and Training Center (PSTC) has launched the programme with support from IKEA Foundation and Rutgers, and in partnership with RH Step and DSK (Dustha Shasthya Kendra). BBC Media Actions is the edutainment partner, said in a press release on Thursday.
Inaugurating the programme ‘Hello I Am-HIA’ at Hotel Lakeshore in the morning, Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu called upon the development workers to design practical campaigns and teach the boys and girls in schools and colleges not to get married at adolescent age.
‘Being a conservative society, we do not discuss growing up and sexuality issues,’ the minister said pointing at the need for increasing awareness about rights to sexual activities which he said was also a part of human rights.
In Bangladesh, teenage pregnancy is directly related to the common practice of child marriage and social expectations to have a child soon after marriage. Child marriage and teenage pregnancy violate the rights of girls, with life threatening consequences in terms of sexual and reproductive health (SRH), compromising education and development of girls, resulting in low socioeconomic status, high levels of fertility and perpetuating the cycle of poverty and reinforcing the gendered nature of poverty, added the press release.
PSTC executive director Noor Mohammad chaired the programme which was also addressed by the first secretary of the Dutch Embassy JCL Vestjens, Rutgers representative Nathalie Kollmann, IKEA Foundation representative Nayana Chowdhury, BBC Media Action country director Richard Lace, executive director of DHK Dibalok Singha and executive director RHStep Quazi Suraiya Sultana.
Dhaka University’s associate professor of the Department of Population Sciences Md. Bellal Hossain presented the basic information of the baseline survey done in six upazilas – Gazipur Sadar, Chittagong Sadar, Mymensingh Sadar, Durgapur of Netrokona, Modhyanagar in Sunamganj, and Savar in Dhaka before launching the programme ‘Hello, I Am’.
He said that the survey found that nearly 80 per cent of girls in the project areas are married during their adolescent period.
PSTC will be using a number of strategies including edutainment to implement the programme.