UNICEF runs an adolescent empowerment project to help prevent child marriage, dowry and other forms of abuse and exploitation of adolescents, especially girls. The project targets 100,000 boys and girls, and their families and communities.
In 28 districts across Bangladesh, UNICEF sponsors 2,580 adolescent centres, where trained adolescent leaders educate their peers about child rights, child marriage, reproductive health, gender, HIV/AIDS, dowry, and violence. Sessions on critical thinking and communication encourage adolescents to build on their new knowledge by speaking to parents about the issues that affect them. The centres also provide a safe place for adolescents to socialize and discuss their concerns.
The centres run various cultural and sporting activities. Encouraging girls to play sport helps address gender disparities, boosting girls’ mobility and participation in community activities. Through some of the centres, adolescent girls can access training in small business management and livelihood trades, such as garment manufacture. Increasing the economic worth of adolescents strengthens arguments against child marriage and dowry.
A supportive community
Parents and community members participate in sessions at the centres that are linked to the adolescents’ programmes. These adults meet regularly with the adolescents, helping to build a support network for the teenagers. Adults and adolescents work together to prevent child rights abuses in the local community.
The Bangladesh Shishu (Children’s) Academy has adopted training modules and teaching aids from the adolescent project, meaning that UNICEF interventions now reach adolescents in all 64 districts of Bangladesh, helping to build a culture of female empowerment and delayed marriage.