By Rakibul Hasan
Dhaka, Bangladesh: Peacempire, an initiative to scale down Early Marriage, undertook major activities among 2805 adolescents, youths and adults, mostly aged 13 to 25 years, who represent over 32 villages in the district of Narayanganj, Bangladesh.
We have surpassed the targets we set. Until the eve of February, we trained a number of 162 Community Reporters, 149 Young Advocates, 63 Peer Educators and 2431 Campaigners, through series of workshops and campaigns, conducted between early weeks of October 2016 and the mid winter of January 2017.
Earlier we formed a popular coalition of citizens—teachers, professionals, physicians, journalists, administrators, priests, politicians, victims and people of all walks of lives to successfully implement this project.
We conducted advocacy activities, mostly through workshops, campaigns, coalitions and media. Until Final Report, a number of 621 students from 06 schools/madrasas received the opportunities to attend lectures. Out of these six hundred students, about 374 students continue to work as Popular Opponents under four categories against the malpractices of child marriage in the sub district.
We also formed a coalition of citizens, teachers, professionals, physicians, journalists, administrators, priests, politicians and victims.
On October 08, 2016, the coalition staged a drama on the theme of Child Marriage, Gender Violence and Dowry practices at a madrasa called, Baralu Paragaon Batenia Dakhil Madrasa. Over the period of two hours, the drama outreached a spontaneous crowd of over 579 rural villagers there. Earlier on October 01, 2016, the coalition organized a Press Conference with local journalists of Rupganj Press Club in the district of Narayanganj to prioritize publishing more reports, investigative and features etc to trend the in public voices against early marriages.
Finally in collaboration with Murapara Model Pilot High School, the coalition took out a festive rally of 1375 campaigners engaging people en masse in March and to sign 603 petition signatures, that created a vibe in the area on that day. A month later on October 08, 2016, we organized our consecutive second campaign bringing together over 340 students in a rally at an Islamic seminary called “Baraloo Paragaon Batenia Dakhil Madrasa”. Finally, the coalition gathered an assembly of 563 students in a conservative Islamic school on January 11, 2017.
These popular programs helped adolescents and youths remove stigma, confusions and fears around sexual and reproductive health and rights. Now they are more aware of responding through the means of community reporting and digital/social media channels to end protracted social indifference and lack of awareness to open the eyes of society.
The Peacempire does not work alone, rather brings as many people as possible together to treat/retreat the very incidences of child marriage in the communities. In last three months, we popularly encountered 05 incidences of early marriages, but it was too late since the parents silently negotiated with the politicians and administrations to get fake birth certificates for getting their daughters married. In most of the incidences, we identified that girls rarely protested and they had no idea at all that they could raise their voices at least to convince the parents that they were still not prepared enough to be a mother.
The 374 Popular Opponents residing over 32 villages work with local schools, media, politicians, religious community and administrations to stop or delay child marriages in highest possible ways. Our media team is available 24 hours a day and 07 days a week to deliver legal consultation and media facilities and interview those who are involved in the marital crimes against children.
Creating positive lasting significances, the project demonstrates greater possibilities to achieve sustainability simply by creating impacts in the sub district of Rupganj, Narayanganj. With Final Report submission, the team further concentrates upon designing concrete financial, partnership, communication and management architecture for Peacempire.
With a permanent website of storytelling and citizen journalism, the project will continue beyond the deadline and for years to nourish a generations of sexual and reproductive rights advocates. In the sort tenure, we have received over 500 unique stories and essays and we continue receiving scores more every month that make it a popular platform to aware communities against early marriages.
The team designed following 04 mechanism to ensure sustainability with follow-ups and project analysis.
• Continued operation and maintenance of project facilities
• Equitable sharing and distribution of project benefits
• Institutional financial stability
• Maintenance of contextual stability
A number of 11 more schools and colleges have lined up inviting Peacempire to their campuses to educate their students and parents against child marriages. Upon frequent requests from other districts and divisions, we have plans to expand our model advocacy tools in all 07 divisions in the country within the next year.
Thus, Peacempire becomes a sustainable initiative, in collaboration with The Bangladesh Today.
[Rakibul Hasan is SAYS Media Associate and Sub-Editor at The Bangladesh Today, can be reached at email@example.com]