The Hunger-Project Bangladesh celebrated National Girl Child Day in 420 locations around the country with rallies, a policy dialogue session, dissemination of 30,000 leaflets, 10,000 posters and newsletters, as well as articles published in ‘Konna Shisu-11’ (Girl Child Journal) and supplements published in national dailies. The theme of this year’s day was “Safe Environments for the Girl Child Enhances the Future of Bangladesh.”
The National Girl Child Advocacy Forum and the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs jointly arranged a central event in Dhaka on October 12.
The State Minister and the Secretary of the Ministry of Women and Child Affairs joined Hunger Project-Bangladesh Country Director and Shujan Secretary Dr. Badiul Alam Majumdar. Representatives from 54 organizations and students from 10 schools and colleges attended the program. During the rally, people marched, held up posters and banners and called for the rights of the girl child.
Following the rally, a discussion was held in which Hunger Project-Bangladesh Program Director Nasima Akhter said, “Due to existing male dominated attitudes and in some cases lack of awareness of family heads, girl children are being abused in various ways. We are not able to ensure an enjoyable and friendly environment for our girl children. Sustainable development is not possible without ensuring girl child safety. If girl children get qualitative education, safety and a balanced diet, they will also become self dependent and self employed and will be able to contribute to the society and the state. Let us build the social movement against all kinds of child abuse and violence and at the same time let’s make sure there are social protection for them.”
One of the most important parts of the program was the essay competition, which was arranged into two categories; A group (Class-5-7); and B group (class-8-10), on “I have also rights” and “Steps to ensure safety for girl child in school” respectively. Essays on these two specific topics were called for from schools across the country. Prizes and certificates were distributed to the participants.
In addition, the National Girl Child Advocacy Forum, the Debate for Democracy, Shariatpur Development Society, International Child Development Initiative (ICDI) and Islamic Relief organized a policy dialogue on child marriage and abuse, which was held on October 17. Children of different ages and socio-economic backgrounds participated in the discussion and asked questions on state decisions about early marriage and child safety. Youth–including girl children–were encouraged to speak up and have their voices heard.
State Minister for Women and Children’s Affairs Ministry, Meher Afroz Chumki, attended the discussion and said violence against children in the country did not increase, rather, more incidents were reported by the media.
“Years ago children were married off at the age of 10-11 and were tortured in almost every house but these were never reported. Nowadays with so many newspapers, television channels and online media, an incident is immediately reported and we get scared,” she said, adding that statistics at police stations did not show an increase.
The week’s events showcased the participation of children from diverse backgrounds, and demonstrated how the dialogue and the participation of youth in the importance of the rights of girl children is increasing across Bangladesh.