In the second half of 2014, The Hunger Project-Bangladesh made great strides in the advancement of women’s rights and the promotion of local leadership. They celebrated days of significance, such as National Day of the Girl Child, and shared stories of women’s empowerment at The Unleashed Women’s Network National Convention. The Hunger Project-Bangladesh awarded achievements among the Shjuan community, and engaged youth leaders with new Active Citizens trainings. The changes made by The Hunger Project-Bangladesh in 2014 will have lasting affects on the improvement of hundreds of communities throughout Bangladesh for years to come.
Empowering Women and Girls
On September 30, 2014 The Hunger Project-Bangladesh and the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs celebrated National Girl Child Day with the National Girl Child Advocacy Forum (NGCAF) and Shishu Academy. This year’s theme was, “Ensure Health and Education: Stop Child Marriage.” National Girl Child Day was celebrated in 502 places across Bangladesh, in more than 300 unions, with an estimated 600,000 people having participated.
The day started with a rally inaugurated by the State Minister of the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs (MoWCA), Meher Afroz Chumki. Over 2,600 participants from 51 organizations took part in the rally. Many distinguished members of society spoke on behalf of girls’ rights and their commitment to ensure education, proper nutrition, enable and environment for gender equality, and the empowerment of girl children throughout Bangladesh.
The objective of this year’s events was to raise awareness on how violence against women and girls limits the choices girls are able to make every day, from attending school to participating in their community. Events then encouraged participants to come together to find ways to help create an enabling environment for girls and women to lead a life free from violence. Events included a rally, discussions, cultural programs, and competitions in art and debate.
Later, in November, The Unleashed Women’s Network celebrated its fifth national convention in Dhaka, with over 1,300 women leaders in attendance. The women came from throughout Bangladesh to celebrate their successes, share their experiences with one another, set priorities for the future, and develop plans for leveraging their work together at the national policy level. Meher Afroj Chumki attended, in addition to special guests from The Hunger Project-Sweden investor trip. Women leaders took turns sharing their achievements in their communities, including child marriages halted and awareness raising campaigns on nutrition and women’s rights.
This past December, 800 people attended the Shjuan Convention in Dhaka. The convention was attended by many former politicians, academics, media personnel, and civil society members. Shujan Secretary and The Hunger Project-Bangladesh Country Director, Badiul Majumdar, presented the significant achievements made by Shujan in the past two years. These achievements include:
- The collection and publication of candidate information
- Increasing dialogue on political reform and advocacy for strengthened local governance
- Involving youth in democratic processes and debate
- And information mobilization for active citizens
Following the acknowledgment of these achievements, participating members discussed proposals for a Citizen Charter, and renewed commitments to work toward good governance for a peaceful and harmonious society.
The Hunger Project-Bangladesh has been working with Union Parishads (UP) bodies to improve the capacity of elected UP representatives on a new initiative to create 5-Year Plan Books for their unions, providing technical support through planning workshops in addition to forming a sub-committee to guide the process. The sub-committee, Plan Coordination Committee (PCC), will work to make the process transparent and inclusive, hosting meetings with civil society, Standing Committees, and other government entities.
Finally, The Hunger Project-Bangladesh’s partnership with the British Council has resulted in numerous trainings of Youth Ending Hunger volunteers to help them become transformative leaders and Active Citizens. The Active Citizens training specializes in identifying social challenges and finding solutions, in addition to developing organizational and leadership capacities for campaigns and social action projects in their communities. The trainings have resulted in many youth-led campaigns in the latter half of 2014. These include campaigns for safe drinking water, sanitation, nutrition and hygiene, immunization, and elimination of social ills such as child marriage and dowry. There was also a coordinated effort in November and December among youth leaders in partnership with Acid Survivors’ Foundation to raise awareness about violence against girls through acid attacks.