Friday, June 14, 2024

UNFPA worried at high rate of early marriage

Its executive directors tells media
The UN Population Fund has expressed concern over the high rate of early marriage in Bangladesh, saying this increases child and maternal mortality rates, contributes to population growth, and creates social problems like gender-based violence.
“When young girls are married off at early ages, they are not allowed to develop and reach their full potentials. They are also deprived of their ability to contribute to the society,” said UNFPA Executive Director Dr Babatunde Osotimehin yesterday.
According to the Bangladesh Demographic Health Survey, 2007, fifty percent of the girls are married before the age of 16. This rate has remained the same in the last 35 years though Bangladesh has performed well in reducing fertility rate, maternal and child mortality rate and increasing girls’ education rate.
“We are advocating for greater investment in education of young girls so that every young woman has access to at least secondary education, and for reduction in teen age marriage,” said Babatunde, who arrived in Dhaka early morning yesterday to accompany the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon during his three-day visit.
Talking to the reporters at Hotel Westin in the capital, the UNFPA chief said it is urgent to address teen age marriage, and increase investment in young girls’ education.
“When they do not marry in their teens, but beyond 20, they create a space to make them mature, be more choosy about their life, and decide how many children they want to have, Babatunde said, laying stress on enforcing the law that bans marriage before 18.
“Children born to women having at least secondary education survive better. The most important human development intervention is educating the young women,” he said at a time when the world population has crossed the seven billion mark and the globe is facing various challenges including food security and climate change.
UNFPA believes population growth is a challenge for the world. However, if the population growth is faster than a country’s economic growth, poverty will persist.
The UN body, therefore, is strengthening its activities in family planning, advocating for increased investment in education for young women and women health, and preventing gender-based violence mostly in the developing countries in Africa and South Asia, UNFPA officials said.
In Bangladesh, for instance, UNFPA will almost double the grants to $70 million for the next five years compared to that of last five years.
Arthur Erken, UNFPA representative in Bangladesh, said the UN body wants to assist Bangladesh in reducing maternal mortality rate from 194 to 143 per 1,000 live births by 2015. To achieve that, one needs to make sure that every pregnant woman has skilled attendant.
The second target is revitalising the family planning programme. “We will assist Bangladesh in achieving fertility rate from 2.5 to 2.1 by 2015,” Erken said.
According to him, Chittagong and Sylhet divisions will get priorities, as those were under-serving and underperforming areas in terms of women health, education and family planning.
The good thing about Bangladesh is it has political will in all these activities, and that population is put at the forefront of the economic development, said Dr Babatunde, stressing the need of continuing these programmes in a vigorous way.
Both the UN officials said Bangladesh and other Asian countries are growing economically, but what is most important is to ensure that all the growth has equitable sharing for a better society.

-With The Daily Star input

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