In Bangladesh, teenage pregnancy is directly related to the common practice of child marriage and social expectations to have a child soon once married. Young people indicate that they remain severely restricted by prevailing social norms on early marriage, gender, sexuality, high fertility, and virginity. These sociocultural and religious norms are difficult to change due to the low social status of women, concerns for the family reputation, limited resilience and poverty of large segments of the population.
Early marriage and teenage pregnancy violate girls’ rights, put their health at risk and lead to them dropping out of school. The Hello, I Am programme is enabling young people in Bangladesh to break these harmful social norms and have more say in decisions about their futures.
Hello, I am combines several evidence based strategies to create a supportive social and family environment in which young people can make their own informed choices about their sexual and reproductive health:
- Meaningful Youth Participation, as part of an inclusive, rights-based approach and to ensure that interventions are addressing the Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) needs of young people in a youth friendly manner, and to ensure that interventions are (co)led by youth leaders, facilitators and counsellors.
- Positive Deviance Approach to promote and identify behaviors, attitudes, or beliefs that allow the Positive Deviants to be successful in adapting dominant and discriminatory sociocultural and religious norms. Modelling of positive behavior is a variation of a role model approach which relies on the skills and confidence of individuals to pursue positive behaviors they see modelled by Positive Deviants or in the media. The Positive Deviance approach will be supported by Edutainment to raise awareness on alternative behaviors, attitudes, or beliefs and to provide support and advice. Edutainment will be combined with moderated community sessions with participation of adults (fathers and mothers) and young people.
- Advocacy for social accountability at community level aimed at increasing citizen influence on institutional processes and services, and stimulating accountability of government authorities.
- Operational research to improve and document the intervention strategies and to use findings for Monitoring and Evaluation, advocacy, and informing other design processes for future scaling-up. Besides consultations with young people, or participation of young people as informants, we will involve young people as co-researchers.
Girls making their own dicissions
The Hello, I am programme encourages community leaders and parents to become more supportive of girls’ aspirations. Adolescent girls remain in school, marriage and the first pregnancy are delayed and the girls are protected from gender discrimination. Thousands of girls will eventually be able to make their own decisions about their educations, bodies, marriage and motherhood.
The IKEA Foundation is supporting Rutgers with this grant because they believe all children have the right to a healthy start in life and a quality education-rights which are threatened by early marriage.