Plan International has launched a collection of testimonies titled "Louder than Words". The testimonies reflect girls' and boys' activism in collaboration with Plan International in tackling and challenging root-causes of CEFM to prevent this harmful practice and achieve girls' empowerment and equality.
The testimonies promote, celebrate and highlight the regional efforts to prevent and end CEFM that has evolved into a regional initiative called 'Time to Act!'
Child, Early and Forced Marriage (CEFM) is a global human rights issue disproportionately affecting girls. Strengthened youth activism engaging traditional and religious leaders can eliminate CEFM, said Plan International in a press release.
The international development organisation urged the use of digital technology, cyber platforms and online solutions, as well as promoting accessible and quality gender-responsive services that can be used to promote effective strategies to eliminate CEFM, as well as to prevent and reduce adolescent pregnancies in Asia-Pacific, including Bangladesh.
According to the media release, child marriage frequently leads to serious negative consequences, denying millions of girls the opportunity to fulfil their potential. By 2030, globally more than 800 million women may have suffered the consequences of child marriage, up from more than 650 million today.
The challenge of eliminating child marriage is particularly acute in the Asia-Pacific, where despite steady progress in many countries to reduce CEFM, the practice remains widespread. South Asia is home to the largest absolute number of child brides.
Over 12 million girls under 18 are married each year, translating into 23 marriages every minute or one girl every two seconds. The Pacific region falls right after South Asia in terms of global prevalence. About 8% of girls are married by 15 and about 26 percent of girls are married by 18.
In Southeast Asia, CEFM rates are significantly high but fluctuate across the region. Noteworthily, adolescent birth rate in South East Asia, currently at 47 per 1,000 girls, is higher than the South Asia average of 35 per 1,000 girls.
"Each story of grassroots redemption speaks louder than words. These are stories of actions that have led to many small yet significant victories in this perpetual battle of right against might. As we're exploring these accounts of struggle, familiarity emerges of well-known settings, characters, plots and tensions – it's how a story resolves and ends that we need to influence," stated Bhagyashri Dengle, executive director, Asia Pacific and Gender Transformative Policy & Practice, Plan International.
"At first, the villagers didn't take my initiative very well. They didn't pay attention to my words. But I didn't lose hope. I have continued advocating against child marriage whenever I find some free time in between my studies," shared Sweeti from Bangladesh, an advocate and vocal promoter of issues relating to child marriage and girls' health.
Sweeti and several other girls and stakeholders across the region featured in 20 stories of this collection.