Of change-makers

September 30, 2013

Positive Bangladesh
Of change-makers
Keshab Roy, a Nilphamari boy. He is just 18 but he has already made himself internationally known by winning a UN award. For what he has been doing can change things for the better, and, who knows, for good perhaps. For in a country known for its rich and vibrant culture, there are certain deep-rooted social ills that hold it back from achieving the progress its people work so hard to achieve. One of those ills comes in the form of child marriage, a grave violation of human rights. And Keshab knows it and wants to stop it.
Last year, he received the Youth Courage Award from the UN for his relentless efforts to put an end to child marriage as well as preventing children from discontinuing their education.
In Bangladesh, 64 percent of women aged between 20 and 24 who were surveyed were married before 18, which is the minimum legal age for such a life-changing event. This finding of a national survey, commissioned by Plan International Bangladesh and carried out by ICDDR, B, came on 10 September.
A variety of reasons such as socio-economic security, protecting young girls from harm, including sexual harassment, and financial pressure associated with dowry, along with the view that women become less attractive with age, contributes to this ill practice of child marriage. It does not just strip a child of her rights; it also robs her of an education, physical health and psychological well being — all of which are adversely affected by an early burden of marital responsibilities and child bearing.
Fortunately, many initiatives are being taken by various government and non-government organisations to put a stop to this practice. One such initiative undertaken by Plan International, an international child rights organisation, involves youth groups (Wedding Busters) who work to prevent child marriage in their localities. Keshab is one of these youngsters, and is working in his hometown.
Another such child activist is Arzina Begum, a 20-year-old Honour’s student. Also from Nilphamari, she too works with Plan.
Her best friend was married off at the age of 12, an event that changed her beyond recognition. “With sunken eyes and a frail body, looking twice her age and a baby on her lap — I thought, I could be in the same sorry state as my friend is today if I got married at 12, under pressure from my parents,” says Arzina. “But Plan and luck saved me!”
There are many such youngsters working tirelessly with Plan, receiving training on health, sanitation, education and child rights, to take control of their lives and bring about the change that is long overdue.

-With The Daily Star input

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