Youths from different parts of the country, including around 50 girls, have demanded action against all sorts of discrimination, violence, lack of opportunities and violation of rights of girls and young women.
In a virtual gathering of the youths jointly with Plan International Bangladesh on October 10, they pressed their call to action to the government, policy makers, development and corporate partners, civil society networks and other relevant stakeholders to support their movement for achieving women's rights and gender equality.
Echoing the demand of the youths, Plan International Bangladesh at the event announced its commitment to work for gender equality and women's rights, in collaboration with the government, development partners and networks, in a bid to bring social change in the next 10 years.
Md Rashedul Islam, director-general of NGO Affairs Bureau of Prime Minister's Office (PMO), inaugurated the event as the chief guest.
Country Director of Plan International Bangladesh Orla Murphy, Ambassador of Sweden to Bangladesh Alexandra Berg Von Linde, Country Representative of UNFPA Asa Britta Torkelsson, Chairman and Managing Director of Unilever Bangladesh Ltd Kedar Lele, and Executive Director of Eco-Social Development Organization (ESDO) Dr Md Sahid Uz Zaman, graced the event as special guests.
Girls and youth leaders from Lalmonirhat, Nilphamari, Kurigram, Barishal, Barguna, Bhola, Chattogram and Dhaka actively participated in the event and shared their experiences at a community level and their thoughts about how girls and young people can be engaged actively in the movement of achieving rights and equality.
In the welcome speech, Head of Influencing at Plan International Bangladesh Kashfia Feroz emphasised on the importance of addressing the needs of young women in the development plan, and shared Plan's purpose in this regard and its way forward to achieve it.
"Gender equality is one of the priorities for Bangladesh Government. 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 need to work together to increase social awareness on the issue. Policies and laws are already in place, yet if any reformation is required, there also we all can contribute effectively," Md Rashedul Islam, chief guest of the event, said.
"The Swedish government firmly believes that investing in girls and youths means investing in 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 a commitment. Achieving gender equality and empowerment of girls and women is a top priority of the Swedish government, globally, in partner country and also at home," Alexandra Berg Von Linde said.
"In Bangladesh, we will work with government and partners like Plan International to eliminate child marriage, prevent gender based violence and promote economic empowerment. This is our responsibility to ensure an environment where girls would be able to grow with full potential," the Swedish envoy added.
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 since one-third of Bangladesh's population consists of young people, significant investment for young people, particularly girls, needs to be made in the areas of health, education, skill development and employment.
Kedar Lele emphasised on the role of corporate partners to promote gender equality and girls' rights and shared the initiatives Unilever has taken to this end.
"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 of the changes coming in community level. We do need to cascade this change nationally to achieve the SDGs," Dr Md Sahid Uz Zaman said.
"To achieve the SDGs, it is mandatory to ensure no one is left behind, especially girls and young women. The government, UN, development partners and networks, CSOs, private sectors 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," Orla Murphy said while announcing the commitment of Plan International Bangladesh towards achieving gender equality and girls' rights in 2020-2030.
"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 realise their rights," Murphy said.
"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 and equality," she added.
Marking the International Day of the Girl 2020, Plan International Bangladesh awarded five youth organisations 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.