Dhaka, July 29, 2021 – Today, the Secretary for the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs (MOWCA) Md. Sayedul Islam launched a new “Actions to Prevent Child Marriage in Bangladesh” campaign supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The campaign is designed to encourage families to condemn the harmful practice of child marriage and support every girl’s dream to achieve their aspirations and will help advance the objectives of Bangladesh’s 10-year National Plan of Action to End Child Marriage (2018-2030).
Bangladesh has made notable progress in curbing child marriage, where studies show that the proportion of girls who married before age 16 declined from 46 percent to 32 percent between 2007-2017, while those who married before age 18 (the legal age of marriage) fell from 66 percent to 59 percent. However, Bangladesh is witnessing a sharp rise in child marriages during the COVID-19 pandemic, driven by multiple factors including reduced income, especially in lower-income families, and schools closures.
USAID’s Ujjiban Social Behavior Change Communication project, implemented by Johns Hopkins University, is leading the public awareness campaign highlighting the health risks of early pregnancy and the high returns of investing in girls’ education. The campaign will also help generate awareness about the current law in Bangladesh that prohibits child marriage, instruct people how to use existing mechanisms to report incidents in their community, and help victims seek support.
The campaign will seek to collect 1 million pledges from adolescents, parents, community leaders, policy makers, business leaders and civil society representatives to prevent child marriage. This will remind people that everyone has a responsibility to protect girls from early marriage, create a safe and healthy environment for girls and boys in their communities to help them reach their full potential in life, which in turn, benefits the society.
“Child marriage is a human rights violation. We all must take charge to end a complex issue like child marriage that requires efforts along many fronts. We at USAID will continue our work to protect young Bangladeshis from this harmful practice, and work alongside the Government of Bangladesh and other partners to eliminate child marriage, which undermines efforts to promote sustainable development,” said Xerses Sidhwa, Director of the Office of Population, Health, Nutrition, and Education of USAID.
Speaking at the launching event, MOWCA Secretary Md. Sayedul Islam said, “Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is committed to eliminate child marriage from Bangladesh by 2041. Government, development partners, non-government organizations, private sector and relevant stakeholders must all work together to make it a reality.” He thanked USAID for initiating this timely campaign to help reduce child marriage that has thrived in the shadow of the pandemic.
Amir Hossain, Director of Information, Education, Motivation unit of the Directorate General of Family Planning along with officials from the U.S. Embassy in Bangladesh, MOWCA, representatives from media and other national and international organizations also attended the launching event.