It is a fact widely understood in Bangladesh, girls grow up having a faith that boys are better than them.
For generations, high prevalence of child marriage, sexual violence and inequalities have deprived girls of unlocking social and economic development.
In every 7 minutes, an adolescent girl is killed by an act of violence somewhere in the world.
Girls face violence and discrimination throughout their lives. Violence undermines their sense of self-worth and hinders realizing their potentials.
There are 29.5 million adolescents in Bangladesh, including 14.4 million girls and 15.1 million boys. The number represents nearly one-fifth of the country's total population of 144 million, according to Unicef.
Hence, investing in adolescent girls can lead to a healthier and more equitable society in future.
In this connection, every year on 11 October, the International Day of the Girl is observed to amplify girl's voices and stand up for their rights.
Each year's International Day of the Girl is celebrated with a theme. This year's theme "My voice, our equal future" is going to be observed for seizing the opportunity to reimagine a better world for adolescent girls – energised and recognised, counted and invested in.
International Day of the Girl 2020 focuses particularly on demands for girls to live free from gender-based violence and harmful practices like child marriage. It also promotes learning new skills towards the futures girls choose and lead as a generation of activists accelerating social change.
Hence, creating a safe space and violence-free life is essential for any girl for fully realising her potentials and creating a better future.
On the occasion of the International Day of the Girl Child, 2020 BRAC reaffirms to create a violence-free space by focusing on
adolescent girl-focused strategies to its actions.
Addressing violence, particularly those against women and children (VAWC), is one of the key aspects of BRAC's work.
The organisation emphasises creating an environment for the women and adolescents (boys & girls) so that they can resist, and prevent incidents of sexual harassment, cyberbullying & child marriage in the community.
BRAC's Community Empowerment Programme aims to enhance the human and social capital of poor especially women so that they are aware of their rights, empowered to claim their entitlements, resist exploitation and play a more active role in public life.
It contributes to attaining Goal 5 of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) which is Achieve Gender Equality and Empower all Women and Girls) and the overall output of the National Plan of Action (NAP) made by the government.
It follows community-led approaches for addressing VAWC while involves community members, parents, teachers including men and boys to prevent and mitigate VAWC incidents in the community.
There are different platforms i.e. Palli Samaj (grass-root level women platform), School Watch Group (SWG), Community Watch Group (CWG) and networks who play an important role to combat sexual harassment, violence and child marriage.
A support system has been established for the students by connecting them with the governments' support system as well as with the citizens' networking and alliances in the area.
BRAC also ensures support to the survivors including girls (medical, psychosocial, connecting them with legal and livelihood supports) so that they are reintegrated with the mainstream of society. In parallel BRAC also collaborates with other govt - non-governmental organisations and civil society groups to combat sexual harassment and VAWC towards greater impact in the society.
Empowering girls is crucial to accelerate Sustainable Development Goals. When girls are empowered, educated and free from violence and discrimination, their future is more dignified.
Therefore, society and nations should invest in girls for their empowerment and creating a safe and violence-free life.
Empowered girls can contribute to building a prosperous and stable society.
Our vision is for a world where all girls and boys are equally treated and valued, where they have equitable access to education, play, work, nutrition and other basic services including in decision making.
Anna Minj is the Director, Community Empowerment Programme and Integrated Development Programme, BRAC. E-mail: [email protected]