The 2018 theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is #PressForProgress, with the organisers of the movement describing how “While we know that gender parity won't happen overnight, the good news is that across the world women are making positive gains day by day…there’s indeed a very strong and growing global movement of advocacy, activism and support”.
Bangladesh has recorded one of the largest declines in Labour Force Participation Rate (LFPR) for women since 1997, and with poorer families struggling to support their children, child marriage is prevalent, vastly limiting opportunities for women in the future. Children in the slum communities of Cox’s Bazar struggle to access education, as their families often need them to contribute an income to the household.
The Learning Centres we support here ensure flexible access to education, with equal opportunities for girls. In the next year we will be doubling the number of classes from nine to 18. Most of our teachers are women, and express the difference this role makes in their lives and how it impacts perspectives in the community.
Anika is a teacher at one of the Learning Centres, she says “Because of this role I am increasingly independent, and I don’t have to depend entirely on my husband anymore. Before this time I had no decision or say in how our money was spent and my opinion had no value in the family. Now, I take part in all decisions about preparing festivals, how to spend money, family issues etc. They all seek my opinion”.
Parents are encouraged about the importance of learning versus the problems associated with child marriage. Each Centre also facilitates ‘child councils’ who work to address, among many issues, the problem of child marriage.
Safiya is a member of the child council and says “If I leave the school my grandmother will marry me off, which I don’t like at my early age. I have decided to advocate against early marriage in my slum. If my neighbours don’t hear me I will bring my teacher to explain it to them, early marriage is a risk for health and life”.