Adolescents in development
On-ground and on airwaves, UNICEF platforms prepare youths for positive action
There are more than 32 million adolescents in Bangladesh. In a country of young demographic, they make up 21 percent of the population.
As adolescent girls and boys grow, they take on additional responsibilities, experiment with new ways of doing things and push for independence.
It is a time in which values and skills are developed that have great impact on well-being. But in Bangladesh, the potential of adolescents in improving their own lives and communities is quite unused.
Bangladesh’s cultural context generally does not encourage adolescents to share their views, raise their voices or question adults on matters affecting their lives.
So their needs and vulnerabilities are often unaddressed as adolescent-friendly services continue to be unfamiliar concepts.
A large number of these youths lack access to schools and therefore risk being trapped in low-paid jobs.
Despite the high fertility rate among adolescents, they lack information reproductive health and nutrition because of limited access to health facilities.
Adolescents girls face much violence and exploitation because of harmful norms of a highly patriarchal system of society.
Those belonging to ‘low’ castes, indigenous groups, religious minority groups and living with disability suffer further discrimination.
Rapid urbanisation has been straining provision of basic services for adolescents in urban areas and slums.
Bangladesh is highly prone to disasters such as flooding and cyclones because of climate change. Such situations see to the rise of child labour, trafficking and child marriage. In times of crisis and disaster, adolescents are at increased risk of abuse, including rape, in shelters.
There are many limitations to engaging with adolescents representing a variety of ethnicities and cultures in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. On top of that, most of the area there are ‘media dark’.
Success in getting equitable results for adolescent girls and boys is limited.
This UNICEF learned is because of inadequate policy frameworks, lack of capacities of government institutions and minimal participation of young girls and boys in official plans for improving their conditions.
UNICEF Bangladesh views adolescents as agents of change. But reaching out to them through effective platforms is also a challenge.
UNICEF encourages adolescent girls and boys to voice their concerns by providing participation platforms.
Besides including adolescents in health services and improving access to secondary schools, UNICEF promotes their right to participation, recreation and sport.
UNICEF works to develop the awareness of adolescent rights in communities and the impact of harmful social practices on their security and potential.
Adolescence is also when gender norms are either solidified, rejected or transformed.
UNICEF engages at two levels, with adolescents and their families and communities. It reaches out to youths in rural settings through radio listeners groups, and has been working to expand the community radio platform.
UNICEF works to provide high-quality content which is language and culture specific and tailor-made for remote geographic locations, ethnic minorities and people with disabilities.
UNICEF invests in strengthening community, local and folk media platforms, reaching out information to “media dark” areas.
Since 2012, UNICEF has supported more than 300 adolescent clubs, whose members are at least 100,000 adolescent girls and boys.
They are trained in Life Skills to increase their knowledge, awareness and enhance their active involvement in society. Special focus is given to building the capacity of girls in critical thinking, negotiation and decision making.
Adolescents learn through peer-to-peer life skills education as groups of peer leaders are trained to facilitate vital discussions, which enhances their leadership capacity for social action.
UNICEF supports Community-Based Child Protection Committees made up of representatives of families, communities, local government and religious leaders. These support public declarations to end child marriage.
These committees are designed to have two adolescent representatives elected by their peer club members.
UNICEF works with a broad range partners in the government, NGOs, youth groups, the private sector, national and community media and other UN agencies for creating adolescent-friendly policies and programmes.
Mass and trans-media initiatives including social media are used to draw attention to adolescent rights and issues, and create an enabling environment for changes in attitudes, behaviours, norms and practices.
UNICEF works with local media producers from public and private sectors to strengthen their capacity for age-appropriate, culturally-sensitive and inclusive media for entertainment and education of children.
Capitalising on the large population of adolescents in Bangladesh, UNICEF empowers these youths for advocacy and awareness creation on disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation.
Adolescents are engaged through radio listeners’ groups; technology based initiatives and in community media, such as phone-in shows and quiz programmes, thereby supporting capacity development of adolescents to report abuse, violence or neglect in time of emergency.