The Covid-19 pandemic has not been kind to the people of the world. The virus, in its rampage has infected more than 77 million people and left 1.7 million bodies in its wake globally since its detection late last year.
As a result of this, people have been forced to stay home for long amounts of time; the economy has taken a nosedive with companies losing revenue, resulting in job losses. Amidst this pandemic, emerging data from the front lines have shown that violence against women and girls have significantly grown. Reports have shown an increase ranging from 10% to as high as 100% in reports coming from various countries during the pandemic. This is what is termed as the shadow pandemic -- a pandemic within the pandemic.
According to reports from Bangladesh, 54.2% of married women before the pandemic were victims of domestic abuse, the numbers during the pandemic have not been accurately measured, but one can assume that if 1 in 3 women globally are victims of abuse, numbers will not be so starkly different here.
Hence, education and conversations among the young people of the country had become an absolute necessity and that is what fuelled "Shadow Pandemic: Shedding Light on the Violence" into action. AIESEC in Bangladesh, in association with Plan International, SHOUT and Girls Get Funded realised that if we are to begin to incorporate a behavioural change in people, the time is now and it has to happen through the young people, simply because if you want to prevent future domestic abuse, education has to start as early as possible.
The agenda was divided as such: focus on education on day 1, break out activities on day 2 to empower participants to come up with their own solutions to the problem via a safe space and day 3 where organisations come together to speak about potential solutions to domestic abuse.
The moderators over the three days painted a picture of how domestic abuse looks like in Bangladesh, with survivors speaking of their experiences and also with organisations speaking of guidelines to follow once someone is a victim of said abuse. One of the more important myths the campaign tried to dispel is that victim blaming is never the solution, rather a change in attitude and behaviour remains the only way forward.
The breakout spaces brought the participants together to help them discuss any sort of past experiences and possible solutions to the issue. Most spaces remained informative and full of active participation, instilling the belief that once young people come together to avert certain issues; anything is possible.
But we understand that dispelling myths and educating the people about domestic abuse is not a one campaign solution, so AIESEC in Bangladesh with SHOUT and Plan International aim to continue this further over the next two months; having meaningful conversations that can aim to bring out sustainable and disruptive solutions to solve an issue we have been overlooking for so long.
Education and a willingness to act is sometimes all it takes to enable change, and we believe we have been able to take a step towards that change through this campaign.
Selima Sultana, from Save the Children in Bangladesh, spoke about the different stages of domestic violence and how a possible way forward could be by incorporating love and harmony from a young age and towards everyone.
Mahenur Alam Chowdhury from Plan International later spoke about how it's not everyone's problem and not just a woman's responsibility to find a solution to abuse.
The event was also graced by a survivor of abuse, Anjuman Ovi, who shared her experience as a survivor of domestic abuse and how she got out of the abusive relationship, thus serving as an inspiration for a lot of people.
Day 1 ended with Rubina Jahan from Sajida Foundation, who highlighted the mental cost of abuse and how the mental aspect is always overlooked whereas it should be one of the key focal points during recovery.
Day 2 had Noorin Suhaila Asjad from Oroddho Foundation to speak about what actions Youth Organisations have been taking in starting conversations and behavioural changes in young people so as to empower the participants to come up with their own ideas.
Day 3 had Shamema Akther Shamme and Amina Ferdous Moni from Plan International speaking about specific guidelines for people who have been victims of abuse and how Plan International plans to engage with youth run initiatives to achieve its goals over the next few years. The day also brought in Mrittika Anan Rahman and Syeda Afrin Tarannum from SHOUT who spoke about what media's role could be in educating young people and combating domestic abuse. The focal point being media has a responsibility in showcasing perpetrators for who they are rather than the traditional victim blaming that has happened in the past leading to this shadow pandemic. The 3-day event closed with Shamma Raghib from Girls Get Funded who gave the participants an idea of how entrepreneurship could help combat domestic abuse and what the pathways would be for someone looking to start an organisation that hopes to achieve the same.
SHOUT was the youth engagement partner of this initiative.