At BRAC’s Board Meeting on 3 December, Australia, BRAC and the UK reiterated their commitment to work on ending violence against women and girls in Bangladesh. This joint statement was released as part of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence Campaign.
In issuing the statement, BRAC Chairperson Sir Fazle Abed said, “Empowering women and girls is the key to successful economic and social development. BRAC has always believed in collaborations- hence, once again, if we want to deliver real results, the government, private sector and civil societies need to work together to fight gender disparity. I am proud of the progress made in Bangladesh, but there is still work to be done.”
“Investing in girls and women has a transformative impact on growth and poverty reduction,” said Paul Whittingham, Deputy Country Representative for DFID Bangladesh. “That is why, as strategic partners, UK, BRAC and Australia support women and girls to live free from violence, and support their education, health and economic empowerment so they can achieve their full potential.”
“Our shared approach is to work with men and boys as well as women and girls to make sure that women are valued by society and from there to ensure their social and economic rights.” added Priya Powell, Counsellor (Development Cooperation) at the Australian High Commission.
With the support of Australia and the UK, BRAC’s advocacy and social and economic development programs empower women to be actively engaged in household decision making, reduce incidences of violence against women and build the confidence of students to protect and protest against sexual harassment.
The 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence Campaign started on 25th November 2014 and this year the theme is “From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Gender-Based Violence". This theme is well aligned to the gender strategies of all three partners. As a part of this campaign, BRAC has organised discussion forums, rallies, poster displays and other awareness creation activities across Bangladesh. BRAC is also participating in events organised by the Government of Bangladesh and other organisations to mark this campaign.
Violence against women and girls affects a large majority of the female population, regardless of their socio-economic status. A national survey done by BBS shows that about 87% of currently married women have experienced some type of violence in their lifetime; (65% have experienced physical violence, 80% have experienced psychological violence, more than one third have experienced sexual violence, in each case, perpetrated by their intimate partners or current husbands). About one third of women have paid dowry for the current marriage. Bangladesh has the highest rate (65% of child marriage) in South Asia. A very recent survey done by ActionAid reveals that 85% of urban women and girls face some form of sexual harassment the in public domain.
Strong legislation is in place but effective implementation remains a challenge. There are other challenges around provision of support services, capacity of law enforcement agencies and having access to justice. Australia, BRAC and the UK are focused on continuing their work together to address these issues through effective programs and also developing new programs that address emerging social problems related to gender based violence.