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Strong campaign to end child, forced marriages stressed

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Staff reporter Speakers at a discussion in the capital yesterday said all we need to work together to spread the message for the young girls that get educated first instead of getting married early to help bring an end to child, early and forced marriages in Bangladesh. The speakers laid emphasis on through investigation at the grassroots level and come up with evidence over the matter to spread the campaign countrywide. Women Journalists Network, Bangladesh (WJNB) arranged the event, titled ‘Media’s Role to Combat Child and Early Forced Marriage (CEFM), at the National Press Club. State Minister for Children and Women Affairs Meher Afroz Chumki, acting Canadian High Commissioner in Dhaka Christian Tardif, UNFPA Representative Bangladesh Argentina Matavel Piccin, Country Representative, UN Women Christine Hunter, Deputy Representative, Unicef Louise Mvono, Daily Bhorer Kagoj Editor Shaymal Dutta, Joint Secretary of the Jatiya Press Club Farida Yasmin and Program Coordinator Angur Nahar Monty, among others, spoke on the occasion. Prothom Alo senior reporter Monsura Hossain presented the keynote paper at the discussion narrating her personal experiences. Speaking as the chief guest, Meher Afroz said Bangladesh has many achievements, but it has some challenges, too. “Child, early and forced marriages are among the many challenges. The existing law is very old and it has some weaknesses, too.” She said the new law about the child marriage prevention will be finalized considering all the facts and expressed her hope that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will help take the right decision. “I’m happy to see there has been long debate much ahead of the law formulation. I see this debate positively. This debate will help know the law in a better way and it’ll help a lot in implementing the new law very effectively,” said the State Minister hoping that the media will continue to play its role. Christian Tardif said accurate information and responsible journalism are key to educating the public and stakeholders about the benefits of ending CEFMs, which include stronger and healthier communities. “You (media) can be vehicles of change and help spread the message for the young girls. Get educated, not married, just yet,” he said. The diplomat said Canada announced it would provide new funding for projects in six countries on CEFMs, including a US$ 1.5-million one with Plan Canada in Bangladesh focusing on empowering girls, mobilising communities and building and sharing evidence that supports delaying the age of marriage. Argentiana Piccin said media needs to keep writing on the issue with evidence and through proper investigation. "It's a social norm, it needs social revolution. It’s one of the issues that that can’t be changed overnight.” She also said the media has a strong role to play. “You (media) have a strong voice that reaches everywhere where we as a development partners can’t reach. You can influence in a way to bring about changes in society and give girls a new way of living.” Appreciating the overall scenario, Farida Yasmin said awareness among all is very important apart from taking collective move. She said the media has a strong role to play to help country come out from the practice of child, early and forced marriages. Christiane Hunter said journalists can talk to girls, their mothers and guardians and try to know their dreams. “Help materialize their dreams,” she said. Louise Mvono said all have a shared responsibility. “Te media, government or development partners can’t address the issue alone. We need to find ways to address the issue together. The media has a strong role to play and help girls get a better life.” Shaymal Dutta said the issue they are talking about today is a social and religious one. “We can't deal with the challenge alone. The media and the government have the equal role to play to end child, early and forced marriage.” Appreciating the idea of launching campaign through facebook for the first time, he said, “I’m really happy to know that a campaign has been launched through facebook. These days facebook is a very strong instrument to convey messages to the right people in right time.” Monsura Hossain, in her paper, quoted a song that goes - "I'm the flower bud which is yet to bloom....I shall not be a bride at the onset of puberty, shall not get married until I am eighteen".