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Assignment On Child Marriage In Bangladesh Push-Up

Plan International has been operating in Bangladesh since 1994 and works in 4 districts across the country - Dinajpur, Gazipur, Lalmonirhat and Nilphamari - and in Dhaka city.

Plan International Bangladesh has developed a multi-pronged community development programme using a rights-based, community-centred child development (CCCD) approach. The programme includes advocacy initiatives at national and local levels, awareness-raising activities about child marriage and other developmental issues among various stakeholders, and the promotion of community-based organisations of children and adults.

Plan International Bangladesh also provides training on life skills, health and sanitation, and vocational skills to children.

In 1998, Plan International Bangladesh conducted a situation analysis as a part of its CCCD approach. Two core findings at that time were a high prevalence of child marriage and dowry payments. Since 2005, a core area of work for Plan International Bangladesh has been ending child marriage.

Country strategic plan

In its Country Strategic Plan 2010-2015, Plan International Bangladesh lists reduction of child marriage in rural areas as one of its programme objectives.  At the programme unit level, the objective is to increase the mean age of girls at marriage from 15 to 18 in Plan International’s working areas by 2015, and to strengthen government mechanisms by supporting its online birth registration system and enforcement of the Child Marriage Restraint Act.

This will be achieved through awareness-raising activities among stakeholders, life-skill training for adolescents, promotion of peer leaders and advocacy efforts with duty bearers. Child marriage is also addressed through Plan’s community-managed health care programme, which includes a focus on adolescent girls.

The indicators for measuring outcomes are: mean age of marriage; the number of districts that have established online birth registration information systems; and the number of police stations that have established a system for reporting child marriages. Plan International is also part of an advocacy effort aimed at incorporating the issue of child marriage into the national text books for secondary education.

To provide inputs for strengthening its work on child marriage, Plan International Bangladesh commissioned a national-level study on child marriage. (The objective of the study was to understand the present situation of child marriage in the country and identify causes of, and factors associated with, child marriage). Findings from this study are referred to in this report.

Climate change makes already vulnerable girls even more so. As world leaders gather at the COP23 climate summit in Bonn this week, Lakshmi Sundaram of Girls Not Brides says child marriage must be on the agenda.

When we think about the effects of climate change, we think of natural disasters, sea-level rise, droughts and famine. But there is one consequence that you don’t often hear about: the effect a warming world will have on girls.

As extreme weather and natural disasters destroy livelihoods, desperation, insecurity and hunger are driving families to marry off their daughters, often with devastating consequences.

“Natural disasters exacerbate poverty, insecurity and lack of access to education; all factors that can increase the rates of child marriage.”

In the past few years we’ve seen growing evidence that extreme weather and natural disasters are linked to increasing child marriage rates. Each year, 15 million girls are married before the age of 18, many of them in countries particularly vulnerable to climate change. Girls are married off in both times of stability and crisis, because they are seen as being less valuable than boys. But natural disasters exacerbate poverty, insecurity and lack of access to education; all factors that can increase the rates of child marriage.

Stories from Bangladesh illustrate this heartbreaking reality. Increased floods, droughts and tropical cyclones are compounding a pre-existing crisis where 52 percent of Bangladeshi girls are already married before they are 18. Research by Human Rights Watch found that climate change was driving child marriage in the country, as families made decisions about marriage for reasons directly related to natural disasters – some, for example, married off a daughter in anticipation of losing their home to river erosion.

Climate change is also driving increased migration to cities, which increases pressure on families and further fuels child marriage. According to a study by the Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit at the University of Dhaka, between 50,000 and 200,000 people are estimated to have migrated to Bangladesh’s capital to escape climate-related insecurity – many of them young girls.

“Some families also see marriage as a way to protect their daughters from sexual harassment, or to avoid family dishonor that may come from a girl at risk in a city full of strangers.”

These so-called climate refugees are often forced to live in impoverished and desperate conditions in the slums of Dhaka. For families that have lost their livelihoods, the one-off payment of a marriage dowry to a groom’s family is often a more viable option than struggling to feed, clothe, educate, house and protect a daughter for years to come.

Some families also see marriage as a way to protect their daughters from sexual harassment, or to avoid family dishonor that may come from a girl at risk in a city full of strangers. They may not realize, however, the violence girls face within marriage.

In sub-Saharan Africa, research suggests drought is putting increased pressure on families to marry their daughters in return for a “bride price.”

A 2016 report by Care found that in Mozambique, child marriage significantly increased with the onset of drought as families who lost livelihoods, land and homes were pushed to marry off their daughters as a source of income, or to reduce the number of mouths to feed.

As drought drives people into displacement camps in East Africa, the pressure on families to marry their daughters in return for a “bride price” grows. (Robeto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images)

Devastating Consequences

We have to change this perception that child marriage is the best option for a girl and her family. The truth is, child marriage leads to a range of devastating consequences.

Marriage denies girls their rights and their childhood, and deprives them of any chance of a bright future after a crisis. It often means the end of a girl’s formal schooling and puts her at risk of health dangers associated with early pregnancy, physical and sexual violence, and an increased likelihood of poverty.

Child marriage also weakens efforts to reduce global poverty. A recent study by the World Bank and the International Center for Research on Women found that child marriage costs the global economy trillions of dollars. For countries already vulnerable to the effects of climate change, it’s a cost they cannot afford to ignore.

With the effects of climate change already a reality for many of the world’s poorest countries, how do we make sure they don’t result in a generation of lost childhoods?

Most crucially, governments and NGOs need to pay special attention to the risk of child marriage when they are planning their responses to the humanitarian disasters caused by climate change.

These responses must be driven by women and girls who have been affected by child marriage. They are best placed to understand their own contexts, and can help find ways to keep themselves and their peers safe. It also means, wherever possible, focusing on safe access to quality education for girls, both during and after a crisis.

We need much more research on how rising temperatures are affecting girls and what must be done to ensure rates of child marriage don’t increase. There is still a lot we need to learn about the link between child marriage and climate change. This will help us target our responses more effectively.

As temperatures rise, coasts erode and thousands flee their homes, girls are the most vulnerable. We must not let them be forgotten in the story of the fight against climate change.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of News Deeply.

This article has been updated.

child marriageclimate change

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