Ending Child Marriage through empowered adolescent

Bangladesh is considered to be one of the countries having the highest rate of child marriage in the world. Study shown that in Bangladesh 62.8 percent of women aged 20-49 years are married before age 18 years, minimum legal age of marriage for women. Child marriage is defined as any marriage which is carried out below the age of 18 years. Child marriage can be considered as a violation of human rights, as it adversely affects the health and well-being of a girl. Adverse effect of child marriage is early pregnancy and early childbirth, with detrimental and long-term health effects on girls and increased health risks to the newborn. Although illegal, dowry encourages child marriage because younger brides typically require smaller dowries.

In 2014, the government of Bangladesh announced its commitment to ending child marriage: at the London Girl Summit, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina pledged to end child marriage under the age of 15 by 2021 and to end all child marriage under age 18 by 2041. With link to the Govt. Commitment, Dhaka Ahsania Mission wants to reduce child marriage. For that DAM has implemented the Accelerating Action Towards Ending Child Marriage in Bangladesh (AECM) Project with Plan International Bangladesh and in collaboration with Bangladesh government (Department of Secondary Education) in 33 Schools and 21 Union Communities of Charfassion and Bhola Sadar Upazila under Bhola district of Barisal division for 7 Months (25 August 2015 –31 March 2016) to increase knowledge about the harmful effects of child marriage and to provide knowledge on benefit of hand washing & Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM).

SaniMart-opening-ceremony

In this connection, 4 (four) SaniMart Centres in two Upazilas have been established successfully. The name of napkin packet is Shanti. The opening ceremony was inaugurated by Mr. Razaul Karim, Upazila Nirbahi Officer of Charfasson upazila and another one was inaugurated by Doctor Farid Ahmed, Civil Surgeon, Bhola Sadar as chief guest. Trained adolescent groups have started Sanitary Napkin production from March 10 to 23, 2016. In his opening speech, UNO commented that SaniMart is an effective activity for our country to end child marriage. He added that as per government mandate there are enough activities we have to do to stop child marriage. After opening session Upazila Health & Family Planning Officer (UH&FPO), Charfassion and Bhola have given facilitation on reproductive health and sanitation to the adolescents. Md. Kamal Hossain and Kabir Ahammed, SAE, DPHE, expressed their valuable opinion on relation between SaniMart and sanitation. Mayor, Charfasson Upazila delivered closing remarks in the closing session. All the speakers added that they are ready to extend their supportive hands to sustain SaniMart centre and they have expressed their cordial thanks to Dhaka Ahsania Mission to organize such type of activities under GoB UNICEF CATS Project.

SaniMart Centre is like a symbol of reducing child marriage. The objectives of the SaniMart center is to innovative initiative for increasing aware  about sanitation issues & specially safe menstrual hygiene management, enriching on low cost sanitary napkin production and using of napkins through Adolescents’ knowledge & skill and getting their involvement in productive activity & build them as a successful small entrepreneur gradually.

The SaniMart is an approach to promote safe menstrual hygiene practices by adolescent girls and sanitation mela is a learning and production center to produce and promote low cost sanitary napkins.  In the SaniMart center, they can keep other very essential hygiene products (soap, detergent, toilet cleaners etc) and primary health counselling services (BP, Weight, Temperature) are also available and this centre managed by 5-6 adolescents (Presently). In Bangladesh National survey (source: BDHS, 2014, MH&FP and Bangladesh National Hygiene Assessment draft report 2014, project baseline information HP-ASA ) report is showing that 82-86% women and adolescent girls use old cloths, 49% adult women use hidden place for drying cloths, 38% adolescents girls and 48% adult women forbidden from religious activities, Miss average 3 school days in each menstrual cycle, 32% girl students have knowledge-before starting first menstruation, 3,000 days over the 50 years age of women life-struggling about menstrual management by women and girls (project baseline information HP-ASA). Unsafe MHM has adverse effect on women reproductive health.  SaniMart could reduce using old cloths, disgrace of drying cloth, time of washing cloth. On the other hand women and girls use old clothes due to unavailability of sanitary pad and door step supply including cost of pad.  It’s observed that WASH facilities at school minimize student absenteeism, with potential increase in performance and may reduce the dropout rates. The project intervention has focused on strengthened girls association to boost up their confidence to empower them.

The ultimate aim of this project is to reduce child marriage through increasing the utilization of improved water, sanitation and hygiene facilities including MHM and practice of key WASH behaviors using schools as entry points into the communities, through the School Led Total Sanitation (SLTS) approach.