Raising awareness of child rights

Helping children become agents of positive change

UNICEF/2015/Sujan

The challenge

The media must be inclusive and protect the dignity of children

Fulfilling the rights of children is not just an obligation, it makes good economic sense. The long-term losses that result from not investing in children are far greater than the cost of fulfilling their rights.

Every country that achieved middle-income status made significant investments for children. Actions that lead to the welfare of the marginalised are central to the development of a country.

Children cannot elect their representatives, but they do rely heavily on their commitments

Members of Parliament and government officials hold the authority to make laws that protect children and to make implementation an urgent priority.  

Children also rely on judges, police officers, teachers, social workers, religious leaders, health and media professionals, who must have full awareness of the rights of every child.

The media is a big influencer on masses and politicians alike. The media can help children present their thoughts directly to wide audiences.

Children are also consumers of the media, which should recognise them as agents of change

In Bangladesh, the media must invest in enhancing capacity, structures, ethical practices and skills necessary for engaging with children and the issues shaping their lives. It must make space for children in the process of production. But Bangladeshi children rarely get that opportunity.

There are several challenges to raising awareness of child rights and promoting real participation of children in Bangladeshi media.

Children get less than three per cent of media’s attention, says the 2013 MICS. Among the three per cent, less than one per cent focuses on in-depth and critical issues

Women watch TV in a slum hut

Bangladesh has high rates of media coverage, but disparities exist. Around 80 per cent of the population can be ‘reached’ through at least one medium, while the remaining 20 per cent, usually from hard-to-reach areas, are living in ‘media dark areas’.

‘News literacy’, which defines the capacity to demand accountability and authenticity of news, is a comparatively new concept in Bangladesh. 

Without news literacy, people will fail to point out media coverage that is insensitive to children

The number of Bangladeshi children using the internet are on the rise. Around 3.3 per cent of the Bangladeshi population, who are between ages 15 and 19, represent 8 per cent of those who regularly access the internet.  The internet offers profound opportunities for learning and connectivity.

But the internet has a dark side that makes children vulnerable. Risky exposure can sometimes lead to illegal activities

Some examples are: sexual grooming and exploitation; creation and distribution of child abuse images; revenge pornography, child trafficking; physical and mental abuse; sale and distribution of illegal drugs besides harassment and malicious communications. A strong legal regime is necessary to stop and prevent abuses as they evolve.

Adolescent girl TV

Television 

Despite growing cable and satellite presence, viewership in rural areas is driven by state-run Bangladesh Television or BTV. 

মিনা কার্টুন রেকর্ডিং এর একটি দৃশ্য।

Radio

Listenership is higher in urban areas and between 15 and 24 year-olds.  

 

Source: National Media Survey 2015 

গ্রামের ছেলের হাতে মোবাইল ফোন

Mobile phones 

Near-universal but the trend of ownership between males and females varies: 82.7 per cent and 48.1 per cent respectively.

The solution

Reaching out to all sectors with the messages that matter most to children

UNICEF Bangladesh builds partnerships with lawmakers, media houses and rights bodies to spread messages that will raise the knowledge of child rights.      

In terms of providing support and building capacity, UNICEF has been working closely with the Parliamentary Caucus on Child Rights since 2016.

The Parliamentary Caucus on Child Rights is a non-partisan, cross party, cross-ministerial grouping of MPs who advocate for effective implementation of protections offered to children in the Bangladesh Constitution.

Child journalist from Mymensingh
Atika, a 14-year-old journalist from Mymensingh, poses in front of her published work during an exhibition in Dhaka.

UNICEF supports the training of children as journalists, who speak on behalf of their peers and communities

Training children as journalists is helping to create a generation of adolescents well-versed on issues concerning children. 

For that, UNICEF works with media houses and civil society organisations. These include BDNews24/wire service, Daily Star, Prothom Alo and Bangladesh Short Film Forum. The Ministry of Information is a major partner in these efforts.  

Mobilising adolescents as agents of change is a priority for UNICEF in Bangladesh

The effort compliments UNICEF’s global agenda to engage 50 million people to take action for children and reach 1 billion people around the world.


Adolescents as agents of change

UNICEF works closely with the Government of Bangladesh to make the internet a safer place for children. It signed an agreement with the ICT Division over the following actions:  

  • Provide technical support for the drafting of the Rules of the Digital Security Act 2016.
  • Organise joint campaigns to generate mass awareness.
  • Create a reporting mechanism and link up existing tools such as the Child Helpline and U-report over access to response services.


For the last several years, UNICEF has been working to ensure ethical standards in media reporting on and for children. Interactions are held with media owners, gatekeepers, newsroom managers and reporters.

Training and fellowship programmes help to raise the capacity of reporters

UNICEF supported the creation of a guideline on ethics in child reporting, acknowledged by leading media managers as an effective tool, in collaboration with the National Human Rights Commission or NHRC.

The need for children to acquire news literacy led to the project Exploring Young Mind: News literacy and ethics in child reporting.

In addition to publishing a study, around 10,000 adolescents were directly made aware of news literacy and ethical reporting on children’s issues through 12 debating events where girls and boys participated from 192 educational institutes from all over Bangladesh.

Media outlets compete to serve diverse audiences by publishing special pages, helping to attract the attention of its readers. Special pages with Bangla and English newspapers focusing on children are effective ways of promoting important issues.