Md. Mokaddes Litu is a 26 year old graduate student residing in a remote location in Nilphamari district of Bangladesh. Over the past few years, Litu and other young women and men from his community have been engaged in advocacy and lobbying with key decision makers on stopping child marriage and other forms of social injustice, and establishing access to and ownership of land for the marginalised people. The whole range of activity was and a part of ActionAid’s youth network – Activista.
Since 2011, Litu and his fellow youth activists have been voicing against child marriage in their community. To date, over 14 incidences of child marriage have been prevented. Most recently, the young people with support from local partner organization Udayankur Seba Sangstha (USS) held a roundtable with local decision makers, and parents of a minor girl who was to be married off. Although an agreement was reached to allow the girl to continue her education, a few weeks after the dialogue her parents chose to leave the locality to marry her off under a different administrative unit.
Cases such as these are not uncommon to the members of Activista in Nilphamari. Litu notes that
Only strict enforcement of policies and laws by the authorities can prevent minors from being married off early.
This essentially requires better understanding and more effective coordination among all duty bearers to curb child marriage in the heart of the communities.
In order to take their efforts a step further, the Activista members in Nilphamari held a meeting with secondary school students on 12 August 2015 to observe International Youth Day. They took this opportunity to highlight the importance of continuing education and the harmful effects of marrying too young. The meeting was also attended by local decision makers as well as representatives from the media.
Bangladesh has made a commitment to eliminate child marriage by 2041 at the Girls Summit held last July in the United Kingdom. In a recent statement, Bangladesh’s Foreign Secretary, Md. Shahidul Haque, noted that the recently agreed text of the new development agenda Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which will be adopted at the United Nations General Assembly in September 2015, is very much in line with Bangladesh’s priorities which promote gender equality and empowerment of women and girls, education, lifelong learning, etc. Among the 17 goals and 169 targets is also a call for countries around the world to eliminate harmful practices towards women and girls.
Efforts such as those by young activists not only in Bangladesh but also around the world are extremely necessary to ensure the implementation of the goals and to reach the targets. This is also further supported by the need to strengthen the linkages of young people from local to national levels so that they can engage with decision makers and continue to have seats at the table where key decisions and actions are being decided.