Grantee Spotlight: Rakibul Hasan
Bangladesh has the highest rate in the world for girls being married before 15. In fact, nearly 40% of women in Bangladesh are married by the time they turn 15, and 74% by the time they turn 18. This reality exists despite the legal age of marriage - 18 for girls, 21 for boys. In February of 2017, Bangladesh passed the Child Marriage Restraint Act, which allows for the marriage of a girl younger than 18 in certain “special cases.” But the law does not specify a minimum age for these cases. Like many activists around the world, Women Deliver Young Leader Rakibul Hasan sees this as a huge setback for girls' rights in Bangladesh.
“How come you call her a child under 18 when she carries a baby inside?”
— A local reacted against Rakibul’s campaign against child marriage
Even before the February 2017 law, Rakibul saw the need to work closely with communities in order to create a movement of young people that can help push forward the campaign to end child marriage in Bangladesh. He was awarded a small grant in order to initiate his project: Peacempire.
- Raise awareness about child marriage as well as violence against girls and women
- Drive youth support for eliminating child marriage
- Work with government officials to strengthen laws against the practice of child marriage
Rakibul and Peacempire took a multi-pronged approach to achieving their diverse objectives and saw incredible successes from each type of effort:
Education & Awareness
Peacempire worked with 10 different schools and madrasas in the Naraynganj distrct of Bangladesh to create extracurricular clubs. The clubs use a youth-friendly, judgment-free tone to teach young people about sexual and reproductive health. They were also able to collect 500 unique stories and essays from adolescents about their experiences with child marriage and gender-based violence in their communities. These stories will be featured in Peacempire’s online storytelling and citizen journalism platform peacempire.com.
“Every week, our team meets the club members to exchange ideas and experiences that help the boys and girls together to be courageous to gradually eradicate taboos, stereotypes and superstitions about sexual and reproductive rights in the conservative villages."
— Rakibul Hasan
In an effort to spark a connection between young people and authority figures in their communities, Peacempire formed a coalition of experts in reproductive, maternal, newborn, child, and adolescent health, traditional leaders, political and administrative officials, and young people with the specific goal of working together to end child marriage and violence against girls and women in Naraynganj district. An important aspect of this activity included equipping coalition members with tools to be advocates via citizen journalism, social media, and anonymous reporting to facilitate legal interventions and public awareness campaigns in the community.
Advocating for Change
The culmination of Peacempire’s project was the launch of a public petition in support of closing loopholes in laws that allow child marriage to occur, such as the Child Marriage Restraint Act of 2017. They were able to get over 1,100 signatures for their petition, which led to a meeting with members of parliament about the issue. Education officers accepted the petition and expressed support in moving forward to work to revise these laws.
Photos from Peacempire Website
In addition to making important gains with the local parliament around amending child marriage laws to eliminate loopholes, Rakibul’s project was able to create a digital space that will continue to elevate the voices of young people with the goal of continuing to raise awareness around child marriage.
“After a series of consultations with the teaching staff, they finally realized that the book chapters on sexual and reproductive health should not be skipped, they rather need to be discussed in details to educate the teenage students about sexual and reproductive rights.”
— Rakibul Hasan
In total, Rakibul and Peacempire were able to reach 2,805 adolescents and young people ages 13-25 in over 32 villages in Naraynganj district. Since they began, 11 additional schools and colleges have invited them speak about early and forced marriage with their students.
Want to learn more about Child Marriage?
There are many great organizations working on campaigns to bring an end to child marriage. Some websites you can check out include: Girls Not Brides, Plan International, and Together for Girls. You can also help raise awareness about this issue on International Day of the Girl, celebrated every year on October 11th. Follow us on Twitter to participate and use #DayOfTheGirl.
Rakibul is Feature Editor of The Bangladesh Today, regularly contributing op-eds and columns to more than 20 regional newspapers. Generally, he writes on counterterrorism, security issues, LGBT and gender-based violence. He is interested in public policy analyses, peacebuilding, conflict transformation, and the role of youth. Rakibul believes in ensuring freedom of expression, especially to the youth community. He advocates for youth participation in new media and citizen journalism around the country.