Child marriage is a dangerous practice that can have harmful effects on young girls and their children. When girls are forced to marry under the age of 18, their education, independance, health and wellbeing are put at risk. Through advocacy and education, The Hunger Project seeks to inform governments and community members and empower young women to end child marriage in their communities.
The Hunger Project-Bangladesh is committed to ending child marriage during this critical time in the country’s history. With marriage legislation changing throughout Bangladesh, The Hunger Project-Bangladesh has been advocating for the enforcement of marriage legislation that sets 18 as the minimum age of marriage. Last July, Sheikh Hasina, the prime minister of Bangladesh, pledged to take steps to reduce and ultimately end child marriage. She set stringent goals for the end of child marriage in Bangladesh:
- End marriage for girls under the age of 15 by 2021
- Reduce marriage among girls aged 15-18 by more than one third by 2021
- And completely eliminate all child marriage by 2041.
As part of the effort to end child marriage, educational courtyard meetings have been held throughout Bangladesh. Meetings on the dangers of child marriage were attended by nearly 40,000 community members and meetings on the essential nutrients children need during the first 1000 days of life were attended by nearly 16,000 young mothers. These 1000 days workshops are essential for mothers under the age of 18 because young mothers’ bodies must be getting the proper nutrients, in addition to the bodies of their children, as both are continuing to undergo developmental changes.
Despite promising commitments and educational advances, the government of Bangladesh intends to lower the legal age of marriage in Bangladesh to 16. The National Girl Child Advocacy Forum, a network of 168 organizations including The Hunger Project who are fighting for girl’s rights, have avidly opposed this new act. This has lead to a possible amendment to the act, leaving the legal age of marriage as 18 while having a clause that allows children 16 years of age and older to marry with parental consent.
After a recent trip to Bangladesh, Daisy Owomugasho, country director of The Hunger Project-Uganda, was inspired to improve advocacy and educational initiatives on issues of child marriage in Uganda. Rather than beginning new programs, The Hunger Project-Uganda has been working to strengthen existing programs to better incorporate issues of child marriage. Initiatives to educate and empower young girls are incorporating new techniques to end child marriage into their programs; and savings workshops are being extended to children to empower individuals become independent and successful starting at a young age.
New initiatives that seek to end child marriage have been hugely popular throughout Uganda. Many children are attending workshops, far exceeding the expected attendance and capacity prepared for by program leaders, and elections for a new committee that addresses child marriage have been highly competitive.
Burkina Faso is in the early stages of their fight to end child marriage. Though new programs and activities have not yet been implemented due to the rainy season, Burkina Faso is preparing for groundbreaking changes on the issue of child marriage.
The Hunger Project-Burkina Faso has begun by training local leaders and animators on issues of child marriage. Local traditional, religious, and political leaders have been very receptive to this training and intend to educate the public in their various churches, schools, and other forums.
Radios campaigns have also played a key role in the movement to end child marriage in Burkina Faso. Radio releases in French and other local languages were used to call upon community members to visit the conferences being held on child marriage throughout Burkina Faso; and radio commercials were used to raise awareness and educate the public on the dangers of child marriage. In addition, a new Child Not Bride chapter was established in Burkina Faso. This will be vital in supporting educational initiatives and conferences on child marriage throughout the country in the future.
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