Around 50 Girls and youths from different parts of the country demanded action against all sorts of discrimination, violence, lack of opportunities and violation of rights of girls and young women; in a virtual gathering led by the youths jointly with Plan International Bangladesh on 10 October 2020. The girls and youths pressed their call to action to government, policy makers, development and corporatepartners, civil society networks and other relevantstakeholders to support in their movement of achievingrights and equality. To cherish the girls’ and youthleadership and recognize their invaluable role to bring the social change in collaboration with government, development partners and networks; in the event Plan International Bangladesh has announced the commitment to work for gender equality and girls’ rights in upcoming 10 years, echoing the demand of theyouths.
Md. Rashedul Islam, Director-General of NGO Affairs Bureau of Prime Minister’s Office inaugurated the event as the Chief Guest. The Country Director of Plan International Bangladesh Orla Murphy, Ambassador of Sweden to Bangladesh Ms. Alexandra Berg Von Linde, Country Representative of UNFPA Ms. Asa Britta Torkelsson, Mr. Kedar Lele, Chairman and Managing Director of Unilever Bangladesh Ltd and Dr. Md. Sahid Uz Zaman, Executive Director of Eco-Social Development Organization (ESDO) have graced the event as the special guests. Girls and youth leaders from Lalmonirhat, Nilphamari, Kurigram, Barishal, Barguna, Bhola, Chattogram and Dhaka actively participated in the event and shared their experience and thoughts towards the journey of achieving gender equality and girls’ rights.
The event started with the welcome speech of KashfiaFeroz, the Head of Influencing of Plan International Bangladesh where she emphasized on the importance of addressing the needs of the girls and young women in development plan. She also shared the purpose of Plan to focus on the rights of the children, especially thegirls and young women and how the organization ismoving forward to collaborate with the young people to achieve that purpose. Complementing the speech of Ms. Feroz, the Youth Advisory Panel Member of Plan International Bangladesh, Samia Khan Priya shared the experience about how the young leaders like her werethe part of formulating the priorities and commitments ofPlan International to support the Girls’ Rights and Equality Movement for next 10 years. The girl leaders from Nilphamari, Bhola, Bandarban and Dhaka beingthe panelists of the virtual discussion, shared theirexperience in the community level and their thoughts about how girls and young people can be engaged actively in the movement of achieving rights andequality.
In the speech of the Chief Guest, Md. Rashedul Islam said, “Gender equality is one of the priorities for Bangladesh Government. We really do appreciate the collaboration the development partners like Plan International are doing with the government to achieve the goals. From NGO Affairs Bureau, we are always ready to extend any support in this journey of the girls and youths to achieve rights and equality. We do needto work together to increase social awareness on theissue. Policies and laws are already in place, yet if any reformation is required, there also we all can contributeeffectively.”
While talking as the special guest, Ms. Alexandra Berg Von Linde said, “Swedish government firmly believes that investing on girls and youths means, investing on a more equitable society. The youths are really doing great work to bring social change and today I believe we all can turn that promise of change towards acommitment. Achieving gender equality andempowerment of girls and women is a top priority of Swedish government, globally, in partner country and also at home. In Bangladesh, we will work with government and partners like Plan International to eliminate child marriage, prevent gender based violenceand promote economic empowerment. This is ourresponsibility to ensure an environment where girls would be able to grow with full potential”
Ms. Asa Britta Torkelsson also expressed her solidarity and commitment of UNFPA to stay with the movement of girls and youths for rights and equality saying that One third of Bangladesh’s population is consisted of young people. Significant investment for young people, particularly girls, needs to be made in the areas of health, education, skill development and employment. This would leverage us further for country’s growth. Formore than 30 years, UNFPA has been advocating forwomen and girls. Our demand is a life of the girls free from gender based violence and have equal access to services. We encourage all the youths to become the further agent of social change.”
Joining as one of the special guests, Mr. Kedar Lele emphasized on the role of corporate partners like Unilever to promote gender equality and girls’ rights. He shared the initiatives Unilever has taken to promote gender equality within organization and in product marketing. . He mentioned that change has begun and this is the time for the girls and youths to take the lead.
From the experience of working with the communitygirls and youths to support their movement of bringing social change, Dr. Md. Sahid Uz Zaman said, ‘We need to establish citizen collaboration to ensure the rights of the girls and women. We are really hopeful that girls and youths are moving forward to press their agenda on equality and bringing good change in the society already. The girls joined today are the best example ofthe changes coming in community level. We do need tocascade this change national to achieve the SDGs.”
While announcing the commitment of Plan International Bangladesh towards achieving gender equality andgirls’ rights in 2020-2030, the Country Director of theorganization, Orla Murphy said, “To achieve the SDGs, this is mandatory to ensure no one is left behind, especially girls and young women. The government,UN, development partners and networks, CSOs, privatesectors need to take joint initiatives to empower girls and young women, to be heard, to live without fear of violence and to achieve their rights. This youth-led ‘Girls’ Rights and Equality Movement’ will mobilise girls, young women, boys and men with a view to radically transforming the country’s current power relations for the better, enabling girls and young women to fulfil their true potential and realize their rights. Plan International Bangladesh calls upon to the government, development partners, networks, CSOs, private sectors, media and all other stakeholders of the country to support the girls and youths in their movement of achieving rights andequality.”
In the end of the event the Deputy Country Director of Plan International Bangladesh, Laura Criado announced the name of the winners of ‘Equality Awards: Youth in Action’. Marking the International Day of the Girl 2020, Plan International Bangladesh awarded five youth organizations for their innovative campaign ideas to promote youth actions for achieving girls’ rights and equality. The winners of the ‘Equality Awards’ are WeMen, Evolution360, Bangladesh Marma Students Council, Barishal Youth Society and Deshi Ballers. The event ended with the closing remarks of Debashish Saha, Director- Field Operations of Plan InternationalBangladesh.