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Share-net Knowledge Fair

The project team presented a plenary session on ‘preventing early and child marriage’ in a conference titled ‘SRHR knowledge fair’ hosted by Share-net Bangladesh, in collaboration with Red Orange Media. The plenary consisted of panellists from CARE Tipping Point Project, Terre Des Hommes Netherlands and BRAC Institute of Educational Development.

The panel focused on discussing emerging research insights on early marriage in urban slum contexts and how the information can be used to design more effective programmes. Mr. Kaiser Zillany, panelist from CARE, shared the conceptual design of  the Tipping Point project and its learnings from the field. Our second panelist Miss Mitul Dutta from BRAC Institute of Educational Development (IED) shared insights from IED's work on Urban Adolescent Needs Assessment Survey, 2014-2015- the multiple dimensions of adolescents’ lives in urban settlements, and their psycho-social well-being in the context of urban slums. Our third panelist Mahmudul Kabir, Country Representative, Terre Des Hommes, drew on their lessons from implementation of IMAGE project and the challenges of working with adolescent married girls. The panel was moderated by Ms. Samia Huq, Associate Professor, BRAC University. 

The event was covered in the press, links provided below. 

1. Newagedbd

2. Bangladesh Sangbad Shongstha

3. Samakal

4. Kaler Kontho


Seminar at BRAC University
In collaboration with the Economics and Social Sciences department at BRAC University, the project team co-hosted a seminar on “Early Marriage: Women’s Life Choices in Bangladesh” on 15th October, 2016. The project coordinator, Seama Mowri presented some of our emerging findinds at the seminar. The seminar aimed to disseminate the findings and reflections on early marriage and discuss the policies, advocacy, and further research necessary for intervention in this critical issue. The seminar included presentations by Zaki Wahhaj, Niaz Asadullah and Professor Samia Huq. 
Abstract presentation in ICUH conference in Portugal
Project staff presented on our research findings at the 14th International Urban Health Conference, at Coimbra, Portugal on 26-30 September 2017. 
The topic of our oral presentation topic was “Adolescent girls’ reproductive lives in urban slum: managing constraints and exerting agency”- R. Akter*, J. Evans, S.F. Rashid. The session title was Rural Urban Migration and Urban Slum. The session was chaired by Jose Siri. 
16-17 January 2017
The purpose of the workshop was to reflect on the social impact, social change pathways and gender transformative potential of the IDRC-supported projects to learn from each other and assess what is working (and how) and what is not (and why not)  to achieve the transformation that the projects set out to realize.  The two-day WILDAF-IDRC workshop brought together researchers from Asia (Bangladesh, India, Pakistan), Africa (Mali, Niger, Togo, Senegal, Ghana) and Canada who are involved in different projects on early and child marriage and gender based violence. 
James P.Grant school of Public Health participated as part of the IDRC funded project on ‘Preventing early & child marriage in poor urban settlements’. We had two presentations, one on methodology and emerging themes of the project on the first day of the workshop and another presentation on measuring social change, presented by Dr. Julie Evans.
Panel Discussion
The Project staff was invited to participate as a panellist in a panel discussion on ‘Sexual Health in Family Relations’ organized by Amrai Pari Paribarik Nirjaton Protirodh Jot (WE CAN alliance) on 17th October 2017 at Bangla Academy. The panel featured two presentations by Jinat Ara Hoque (Coordinator of We CAN Alliance) and Dr. Shahana Nazneen, followed by a discussion between representatives from UNFPA, Marie Stopes and James P. Grant School of Public Health. 
International Gender and SRH Conference 2018 for Young Adults
ECM Panel on Critical Reflections on Adolescent Lives 2018-01-31
The Conference looked at three themes critical in Bangladesh for sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) interventions that are aimed at young people to become healthy and productive citizens. Three consecutive panel discussions were held. About 300 participants from development organizations, aid agencies and like-minded organizations, government organizations, researchers, media personnel and academics attended the event and used it as a platform to share their work and engage in meaningful conversations with other practitioners.

Panel speakers included experts such as Sara Hossain (Supreme Court Lawyer and Honorary ED of Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust), Dr Mustafa Sarwar, (Additional Secretary and Director General of the Directorate of Family Planning, Government of Bangladesh)and Rownaq Jahan (Additional Secretary and Director General of NIPORT, Government of Bangladesh), Sathyanarayanan Doraiswamy, (Head of Health, UNFPA),Seama Mowri (Senior Coordinator, BRAC JPGSPH),  Farzana Brownia (CEO of Shornokishoree Foundation) and Qazi Suraiya Sultana (Executive Director, RHSTEP) and closing remarks were given by Mushfiqua Zaman Satiar (the Royal Netherlands Embassy). The interactive panels of the second day of the Conference included sharing experiences of young people regarding sexuality and relationships, the gendered social norms and expectations and importance of developing life-skills of adolescents, censorship in SRHR education, and understandings of informed consent and choice.

There were fascinating insights into young people’s agency in the presentation by the third panellist, Seama Mowri, project coordinator at JPGSPH, on early and child marriage in Bangladesh. Early marriage is occurring in urban slums which are in a period of transition (with Dhaka on its way to becoming the sixth largest mega-city by 2030). Young people live with insecurity in the forms of the risk of eviction, fragmented families, and criminality. It is within this environment that they navigate narrow and difficult choices. The presentation drew on interviews with 130 young people and other stakeholders found that the average age of marriage was 15-16 years and that love relationships were losing their taboo status. In a context where many young people had access to a mobile device, the older generation were increasingly concerned that this form of communication was leading to clandestine relationships and elopement. We heard that sometimes adolescents blackmailed other young people or their parents into agreeing to early marriage, threatening to run away or commit suicide if their desires weren’t fulfilled. Within marriages the majority of married girls wanted to delay pregnancy and took responsibility for contraception even if their husband did not (and sometimes kept it a secret from husband and in-laws). Furthermore, remaining single and entering the world of work was not necessarily considered empowering. Young working women talked of the need for protections against assault and harassment. This evidence was refreshing as it did not rely on stereotypes about young people’s lives. It demonstrated the agency of young women living in difficult situations. Mowri concluded her presentation by stressing the need for more research on normative change interventions and that interventions to halt or reduce early marriage are more likely to succeed if they take into account the heterogeneity of urban slums and the multi-dimensional life experiences of adolescent girls.  
Maheen Sultan, who is leading the Centre for Gender and Social Transformation at BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), pointed out that today’s adolescents increasingly see themselves as people with agency and a voice. It is beholden on public health practitioners to accept this and listen and learn from younger people in the organisation of services and interventions. As one speaker pointed out, young people talk about desire, emotion, sexual orientation, pornography, and drugs but we don’t engage with them on this. There is no space to talk about the issues that they find pertinent, there is just silence. Luckily the conference bucked this trend.