Everyone who loves football has seen showing red card to footballers by a referee for foul play, but it is almost a surprising and strange event for many when they see schoolchildren in Bangladesh are showing similar cards to social menaces like child marriage.
Such a surprising event took place on Thursday when hundreds of students of Chunarughat Pilot Girls High School in Habiganj district showed red cards to early marriage. The schoolchildren vowed to fight against child marriage in their localities. They also declared the educational institution free from early marriage.
About 500 students of the institution raised red cards for five minutes and took oath for preventing child marriage. Nongovernment development organization- BRAC- organized the campaign against child marriage on the school premises.
Speaking on the occasion, Chunarughat Assistant Commissioner (Land) Tahmina Akther said the institution has become part of history as it is a biggest promise to say ‘No’ to early marriage.
“We have been working hard over the last few years to keep the school free from early marriage and we will continue to do so,” headmaster of the school Satyendra Chandra said.
At a similar programme in July 12, 2018, students of Manikganj’s Khan Bahadur Awlad Hossain Khan College took oath to create a society free from eve-teasing and child marriage and showed red cards to these social misdeeds.
In the light of high prevalence of child marriage in Bangladesh, the government and UNDP jointly launched a school-level ‘red card campaign’
against child marriage and sexual harassment under the Upazila Governance Project (UZGP) in 2016.
The Upazila Governance Project (UZGP) under Local Government Division (LGD) launched the campaign aimed at raising awareness among school students, teachers, guardians and community people to fight the social menaces like child marriage and sexual harassment.
With the technical and financial support of the UNDP, the project has prepared a ‘red card’ with slogans against early marriage and sexual
harassment and covered some 195 high schools under 65 upazilas of seven selected districts – Kishoreganj, Brahmanbarhia, Sirajganj, Khulna, Barguna, Sunamganj and Rangpur.
The UZGP prepared and distributed among school students a red card inscribed with messages to stop early marriage and sexual harassment. Two hotline numbers of Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) and Vice-Chair (female) of Upazila Parishad (UZP) are also printed on the cards to seek help from local administration to prevent the social ills.
A complaint box was also set up in each school and a school-level prevention-committee was formed to address the social ills.
Officials said after successful implementation of the campaign programme, many other voluntary and development organizations like BRAC and Lal Sobuj Unnayan Sangha (Cumilla) took similar campaign to create a social movement against child marriage.
Child marriage is a violation of human rights. It adversely affects education, health and wellbeing of girls and perpetuates cycles of poverty.
Child brides experience the detrimental physical, psychological and social consequences of child marriage.
Still, Bangladesh has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world. The 2015 government survey shows that in Bangladesh, 52 percent of women currently aged 20-24 were married before the age of 18. But, the minimum legal age of marriage for females in Bangladesh is 18 years and 21 for males.
A 2018 UNICEF study reveals that the child marriage rate is higher than Bangladesh with 59 percent (3.93 million).