6 girls awarded for their role in preventing child marriage

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Six adolescent female children have received awards for their role in preventing child marriage.

Lawmaker and noted singer Momtaz Begum handed over crests to the girls at a programme held at the Krishibid Institute auditorium on Wednesday.

The awardees are Shamima Akhter, Amina Khatun (Nila) and Lilima, all from Acid Survivors Foundation, Mukta Akhter Mou from Brac, Shabana Akhter from The Hunger Project and Tuli Debnath from Ghash Foring.

Brac, Acid Survivors Foundation and the Australian High Commission organised the event focusing on the various needs of a girl child, the challenges they face and the importance of building their capacities.

Organising partners of the event were Girls Not Brides campaign and Engage Men And Boys Network.

Among the others, Anna Minz, director, Gender Justice and Diversity Programme, Community Empowerment Programme and Integrated Development Programme, Sally-Anne Vincent, acting high commissioner of Australia to Bangladesh, noted psychologist Dr Mehtab Khanam and Ain o Shalish Kendra Executive Director Sheepa Hafiza, spoke at the programme.

Talking about her childhood, Mumtaz said: “I have come from a disadvantageous family situation. It is an achievement that I have become a Member of Parliament now.

“It has become possible only because of my self-confidence. If you grow such confidence in yourself, then even you will go far in your life.”

Acting Australian high commissioner Sally-Anne Vincent said: “South Asia has the highest rate of child marriage in the world, with 46% of girls being married by 18. Given this high prevalence, it is an area of focus for DFAT’s advocacy efforts in the region.”

Psychologist Dr Mehtab Khanam said: “Women’s empowerment needs both social and psychological change. This can only be possible when there is a change in our state’s structure.”

She said: “The first thing a girl hears at the very beginning of her life is ‘no’. The continuous discouragement from the family and society lowers her self-confidence.

“But for boys it is usually a different scenario. Boys are not habituated to hear ‘no’ from their families, society and particularly from women. They grow up receiving the message that women are inferior.”

She added saying that a lot of times boys become sexually violent and take revenge when a girl refuses their proposal.

On the other hand, Anna said: “Several incidents of rapes are occurring in Bangladesh but there is very little attempt to bring the criminals to trial.”

Award winner Mukta Akhter Mou said she grew up in her maternal uncle’s family and they wanted to marry her off while she was quite young.

Later, she sought the help of her teacher and a local student watch group protested against the marriage attempt.

Sharing her tale of bravery, Tuli Debnath said she is fighting against child marriage with the strong belief that a child should be born to a mother and not to another child.

The four other awardees also shared the tales of their bravery and life struggle.