Six adolescent girl children have received award for their role in preventing child marriage. At a ceremony on this occasion organised on Wednesday (Oct 11) at the Krishibid Institute auditorium. Lawmaker and noted singer Momtaz Begum handed crests to the brave girls.
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 Ghas Foring.
BRAC, Acid Survivors Foundation and the Australian High Commission organised the event focusing on the various needs of girl children, 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.
Lawmaker Momtaz Begum attended the event as the chief guest, while Anna Minz, director, Gender Justice and Diversity Programme, Community Empowerment Programme and Integrated Development Programme, chaired.
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 among others.
Mumtaz Begum, MP referred to her childhood and said at the programme, "I myself have come from a disadvantageous family situation. It is my achievement that I have become a Member of Parliament now. It has become possible only because of my self-confidence. When you grow such confidence in yourself you will also go far in your life."
Sally-Anne Vincent said, "South Asia has the highest rate of child marriage in the world, with 46 per cent of girls married by 18. Given this high prevalence, it is an area of focus for DFAT’s advocacy efforts in the region."
Dr Mehtab Khanam said, "Women's empowerment needs both social and psychological change. This can be possible only when there will be change in our state’s structure." She further said, the first thing a girl hears in the very beginning of her life is a ‘No’.
The continuous discouragement from the family and society lowers her self-confidence. But for boys it is usually a different picture. Boys are not habituated to hear a ‘No’ from their family, society and particularly from women.
Boys grow up receiving the message from the whole society that women are inferior. So when a girl refuses to their love proposal, they cannot accept it and many times their fury instigates them for revenge by sexual violence.
Anna Minz called for a movement against the culture of existing lawlessness regarding bringing the sexual offenders to book.
"Numerous incidents of rape are occurring in Bangladesh but there is little attempt to bring the criminals to trial," she said.
Mukta Akhter Mou said she grew up in her maternal uncle’s family and did not have her mother or father.
Her uncle and his wife arranged to marry her off while she was quite young. As she learned about their plan she kept her mind strong and went to her teacher and a local student watch group and with their backing she protested against the marriage attempt.
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 told the audience the tales of their bravery and life struggle.