Sharifa Khatun, 14, has completed class nine and dreams of passing the Secondary School Certificate (SSC) examination. But Ramzan Ali, father of Sharifa and a farmer of Shibganj Upazila in Chapainawabganj, is thinking of marrying off his daughter.
He thought that if he could marry off his elder daughter Sharifa, the burden of the family would also be reduced. He started looking for a bridegroom for Sharifa. He remains firm in his decision to marry off his daughter if he finds a son of his liking.
Hearing the words through folk songs, the blind believer in child marriage opened his eyes. He changed his decision to marry off his daughter at a young age. Now he continues educating his daughter and thinking of higher education.
Folk songs are playing a vital role and changing the views of people about child marriage. Now people in Shibganj Municipality of Chapainawabganj area are educating their girls as a blessing. But this area was considered as one of the most child marriage-prone areas in the country.
To prevent harmful social norms (including child marriage and violence against children) and to promote the well-being of children and adolescents, World Vision Bangladesh is implementing the “Strengthening Social and Behaviour Change” initiative in six Upazillas of Chapainawabganj, Kurigram and Gaibandha districts with the support from the European Union and UNICEF.
During a field visit to Chapainawabganj, it was seen that a folk song programme was organised by World Vision at Roshia Bazar in Shibganj upazila of Chapainawabganj.
In the presence of a large number of audiences, the song highlighted how violence and child marriage affect the lives of the children and how these harmful norms set a nation back. While singing and dancing around, the artists of the cultural group presented the real images of the society to the masses. With the aim of creating public awareness and sensitivity, the events are made more acceptable by highlighting social aspects as well as legal issues.
Ali Haider Bappy, an audience at the folk song programme, told the Daily Sun, “I think this is a good initiative. As an audience, I came to know about the negative impact of child marriage, mental damage and physical damage. Now I can describe the negative impact of child marriage to my friends, relatives and family members.”
Meanwhile, World Vision is getting good responses from the people of the village regarding the awareness and prevention of child marriage through such exceptional local media programmes.
UNICEF Rangpur and Rajshahi Divisional Chief AH Towfique Ahmed said, “UNICEF supported community engagement programme utilises Interactive Popular Theatre and traditional folk song shows, because these effectively communicate key messages, stimulate community discussion about how to address issues and practice appropriate behaviours against harmful social norms.”
Sheuly Begum, Women Vice Chairman of Shibganj Upazila Parishad, said, “Through entertainment, awareness and sensitisation will be increased among the public.”
“In this way, any kind of violence against women and children in remote areas will be stopped, child marriage will also be gradually stopped and finally child protection will be ensured,” he added.
At present, although the awareness among the people has increased, the rate of child marriage has not decreased proportionally. In most cases, the parents themselves are the facilitators of this life-destroying game called ‘child marriage’.
So, there is no alternative to creating public awareness by changing the social behaviour of the people at this moment.