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‘Child marriage was lower than projected during pandemic’

Published : 18 Sep 2022 09:40 PM

A study on child marriage during COVID-19 found that child marriage rate among surveyed population was 25.6% which was lower than projected estimate during the pandemic.

The UNFPA hosted a knowledge sharing event on the study in Dhaka on Sunday with the presence of government officials, donors and representatives of NGOs.

Researchers presented the findings on ‘Child Marriage during COVID-19 pandemic in Bangladesh: A Rapid Study’ and ‘Menstrual Health Management (MHM) among Women and Adolescent Girls in Urban Slums in Bangladesh’ followed by a plenary discussion on these studies.

The UNFPA said the child marriage study, however, masked underlying variation at the district level that ranged from 4 to 40 percent Findings from MHM Study showed that access to technology and the internet connectivity enabled women and adolescent girls to access information about menstruation, yet among all age groups, there was major knowledge gap on the negative consequences that inadequate menstrual hygiene can have on their health and wellbeing.

Over 40% of adolescent girls and women use cloth to manage their menstruation in spite of their preference (66%) to use disposable pads. Disposal pads with belts was the preferred choice of product for adolescents with over 63% of those who purchased menstrual pads were girls.

Access to toilets where Women and Adolescent Girls can manage their menstruation with privacy was also reported as the major challenge.

Md. Hasanuzzaman Kallol, Secretary of the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs, was present as a chief guest while Farida Pervin, Director General of the Department of Women Affairs was present as the special guest. Prof. Dr. Syed Md. Golam Faruk, former Director General of Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education, was the key discussant. Masaki Watabe, Deputy Representative of UNFPA Bangladesh spoke to the event on behalf of the UN agency.

Officials from Ministry of Women and Children Affairs (MOWCA), Department of Women Affairs (DWA), Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education (DSHE), National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB) and representative from INGOs, Development Partners, UN agencies and National NGOs, academicians and members from civil societies, students were also present at the event.

The purpose of the event was to discuss the findings of the two studies - one to shed light on the situation of child marriage during COVID-19 and the other on menstrual hygiene management of women and adolescent girls in urban slums- that were recently conducted with a view to understand experiences of girls and women and encourage greater investment in research and programming, said the UNFPA. 

Md. Hasanuzzaman Kallol said joint efforts of multiple stakeholders were required for ending child marriage in Bangladesh.

“Good governance has a direct relation to accelerating action to end child marriage. He also mentioned that fathers and brothers should be encouraged to support girls in all aspects of her life, including during their menstruation. He personally did it for his daughter while she had her first menstruation. On the other hand, toilet facilities should be available at every educational institution and workplaces so that women and girls can feel comfortable when they study and work.”

Farida Pervin said the government has taken a multi-sectoral programme for the prevention of child marriage at every union and appealed UN agencies, donors, NGOs and civil societies to raise awareness and ensure the policies are implemented at sub-national levels.

Prof Faruk highlighted the major gap between people’s perception and the reality of child marriage especially in the last two years that world faced with COVID-19 pandemic.

Masaki Watabe said that these studies brought out the voices from the women and girls and encouraged all the partners to implement evidence-based, nuanced, contextual and targeted interventions keeping women and girls at the centre.

He also mentioned that more robust and real-time data is required to understand these important social phenomena in depth.