June 7, 2016
Written by Pamela Young
This post originally appeared on Plan International’s website. Reposted with permission.
When she was 14, Jharna became a child bride. Today she is 22 and a divorced mother of a 7-year-old daughter. She is also one of the 11,000 survivors of domestic violence and other human rights abuses who have received services from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-supported Protecting Human Rights (PHR) Program.
In Bangladesh, there are approximately 28 million adolescents between the ages of 10 and 19 years old, of which 13.7 million are girls and 14.3 million are boys. The net enrollment ratio in secondary schools for boys is 45 percent and for girls 50 percent. Throughout Bangladesh poverty is endemic, with 31 percent of the population living on less than $1.50 USD a day. Furthermore, 47 percent of boys and 56 percent of girls drop out of secondary school. Although there is a government stipend that is supposed to serve as an incentive for girls to stay in school — the equivalent to three days of food for a family –the number of girls completing secondary school is 6 percent less than boys. In Bangladesh, 66 percent of girls marry before the age of 18, the third highest rate in the world. Parents often encourage girls to stay at home e to safety concerns, as sexual harassment is widely experienced on the way to school, with the number of reported cases increasing.
For the past five years, Plan International has implemented the $12.7 million PHR program and focused on creating awareness amongst young people about gender equality as a way to help reduce domestic violence and human rights abuses such as child marriage, dowry, sexual harassment, trafficking-in-persons, stalking, rape, and child abduction. The program is being implemented in 102 unions in the six districts of Barguna, Bogra, Chittagong, Dinajpur, Jessore, and Sylhet and uses a comprehensive and holistic set of interventions to combat child marriage, domestic violence, and other human rights abusesthrough an integrated, grassroots, and multi-faceted approach. Partnerships with 12 local organizations, alliances, and collaborative efforts foster preventive and protective measures, promote legal and human rights, and develop linkages between and among local and national government representatives, non-governmental organizations, civil society, and community leaders.