Adolescent Girl’s Programme (AGP)
The Adolescent Girls have always been the most disadvantaged among the disadvantaged groups. The traditional social constraints surrounding the growing girls rob them of a healthy and natural adolescence. Discriminations prevail in every sphere – education, nutrition, healthcare, freedom of movement, entertainment, basic rights. The shadow of the ruining dowry makes the parents look upon girls as burdens. This and various other traditions and taboos may take neglects towards and restrictions on adolescent girls to a shocking point.
Starting in 1991 the programme has been one of the first interventions in the country targeting the adolescents. Its innovative approaches and early success have enabled it to be included as one of the ten examples from around the world in a publication by the Population Council at the World Bank, titled “Innovative Programmatic Approaches Towards Working with Adolescent Girls” (April 1996). Since then it has achieved many recognitions and replications, at home and internationally. AGP tries to empower the girls through continued education, skill training, awareness about health, reproductive health, social and legal rights, family life, income generating work, access to credit, personality and leadership development. The ultimate aim is the initiation of a new emancipated womanhood, girls’ development in an equal footing with the boys. The programme in effect aspires to give back the girls their exuberant adolescence – the time to learn and the time to enjoy.
The students and graduates of BSS, and some such disadvantaged students and drop outs in the formal stream, and young women are encouraged to join and remain within AGP, till they are nineteen or more. Some 60,000 participants between the age of 11 and 19 also 25-35 are now participating in AGP, distributed among the 25 Units in various rural areas of Bangladesh. The girls and boys are organized into Adolescent Associations of an average size of forty members, who initiate various empowerment measures through gender sessions, social actions, economic activities etc.
Gender sessions are weekly meeting for every association often facilitated by a peer leader from members them or a staff facilitator. This is a participatory session for raising awareness and taking actions on the issues involved. Empowerment is created through gender session by developing capacity. The issues of gender session come from their real life. Their real life problems related to gender discrimination, deprivation of rights, repressions and how can they overcome these problems are discussed in these sessions. Participants also prepare some work plans for addressing their problems. Actually Gender sessions are the events through which they build up their knowledge and mindset in gender empowerment, and prepare them for social actions.
The Solidarity Conventions
Monthly conventions bring together several neighboring associations in a unit for daylong activities generating joy, confidence, and solidarity. Here they assemble to inspire one another, share and exchange their views of the programme and express their roles in community development through leadership. Each convention has a definite agenda of discussions and action plans, relevant to the social actions taken by the various groups of participants. Successes and problems encountered in the empowerment process are also discussed.
AGP encourages the participants to take leading positions in a wide range of social actions. They have a steadfast commitment to resist discriminations and unjust practices such as early marriage, marriage without registration and abandonment, and intervene quickly whenever such a situation comes to their attention. They also undertake various other empowering and socially important activities such as birth registration, immunization, community work related to environment, health, communication and support to the needy. Some actions such as to resist wage discrimination of male and female workers, eve teasing, repression and violence to women have been getting priorities in recent times. For prevention of early marriage, they declared 82 villages free from child marriage of in the CMES’s area. They do these on their own initiative demonstrating the zeal, strength and leadership capabilities of the participants.
Business for economic self- reliance
Economic self-reliance through the girls’ own income generating efforts has been a constant effort in Adolescent Girls’ Programme preferably in non-stereotype activities, (example: photography, beauty parlour, vermicompost, mushroom, Mobile Servicing, etc. Business Monitoring and Assistance Cell (BMAC) are working for getting better livelihood options and significant income of the participants, which is created by the AGP staffs and peer leaders etc. The focus has been to provide the girls with more opportunities to stand tall through empowering livelihood technology and helping them to take up these in a professional manner. It helps the girls earn a respectable position in the family and community, which they deserve but are often deprived of. For this, technology and business assistances are provided along with small credits. A total of 150958 participants are doing business and of 1,385,577,200 taka loans has been disbursed to be self-employed youth in the year June 2013 through CMES credit programme, much of this to the AGP members or graduates.
Advanced Adolescents’ and Young Women’s Organization (AAYWO)
Advanced Adolescents’ and Young Women’s Organization
Advanced Adolescents’ and Young Women Organization is a self-driven system that differs from the internal structure of Adolescent Girls’ Programme (AGP). All the organizational initiatives are undertaken by its members. In fact, the main purposes of constituting AAYWO is diffusing the gender empowerment in the society and getting a long term result by continued intervention by themselves.
The main objective of this organization is to create a friendly atmosphere preventing violence and discrimination to girls & women. In order to make this possible they combine all the forces of AGP working jointly with the people who play important role in the society like- UC Chairman, UC Member, UNO, law and order authorities and opinion leaders, so that a social movement can be formed with their cooperation.
The members of AAYWO have been working to remove repression and discrimination from larger area, turning the AGP activities into a social movement. On the one hand, they are getting information from hotline, taking initiatives and then solving the problems through a strong networking within the society. On the other hand, they are fighting against eve teasing, women repression, hilla marriage, oral divorce freeing a whole village from child marriage, providing punishment to rapists oppressors, ensuring freedom of movement and hopefully a great movement will be initiated through these attempts.
At present, the general members of this organization are the member of Adolescent Girls’ Programme. For each unit, AAYWO has 5 or more branches. All members of each branch are the members of general committee of that branch. Each Executive committee is elected for two years by the votes of members of all general committees. Anyone whether an adolescent girl, boy or young woman, can be a candidate in the ten members Executive Committee. Unit Committee and Unit Federation are formed from elected executive committees of all branches. Through the hotline or by other means, the organization can be informed on the issues of prevailing discrimination and repression in the locality and the members enthusiastically work for the implementation of all plans taken.
School Gender Programme (SGP)
While working with adolescents, we have found that our formal education system hardly equips the adolescents for gender empowerment. For example, a substantial number of adolescent students are not aware of the various issues of adolescence like ill effects of discrimination, early marriage, rights, reproductive health etc. and are unable to take their own initiative to change the situation. To redress this, CMES is running School Gender Programme (SGP) among the students of 132 mainstream high schools for spreading positive attitude towards gender equity as well as to increase awareness about various gender issues among the young members of the community leading to actions of their own. This is being done in CMES working areas in partnership with the teachers and students of the schools with the members of AGP taking the lead. Now, this programme is extended in the two more high schools and a total of 26400 participants are organized under school gender programme.
Adolescent Travelling Troupe (ATT)
This is a performing troupe consisting of some 25 adolescents in each group. There are three different troupes in each unit. ATTs disseminate the messages of AGP in the tunes of folk songs and in the form of folk arts in public places like bazaars and also in schools and household yards so that they can reach the women folk as well as the men from all sections of the society. The idea is to encourage other girls and women to realize their rights and to assert these, while motivating others to respect those rights.
Gender libraries are maintained by peer leaders in the units for our adolescent girls. These libraries are kept enriched and updated so that they can keep up with the pace of the gender advancement in home and abroad. These books can develop their mindset for gender equity and give them more options to learn about their rights and way outs to achieve them. The adolescents are encouraged to build a reading habit alongside their classroom education through these libraries.
Local Support Group (LSG)
Local community’s support as well as support of the parents are always necessary to strengthen the activities of Gender Programme. So, a team is formed with local community members, which is titled as Local Support Group (LSG). Sympathetic local government leaders, Imams, social workers, teachers, influential persons, and guardians are the members of the LSGs. They join in regular meetings and assist through their moral and practical support to uphold the gender rights & equity. The numbers of LSGs members are 250 in each unit. Among them 25 members established “Change Maker Group” in each unit.
The major objective of AGP is to enable adolescents to assert their rights and to empower them. We have developed an assessment method, which we call GEI (Gender Empowerment Index), for a reasonably quantitative measurement of gender empowerment. Basically, the GEI looks at things such as the attendance rate and contribution of the member in the gender sessions and conventions, personal initiatives in the social actions, success in the income generating activities, propensity in the use of gender library, the quality of a gender diary and business book she keeps, leadership in activities she provides etc.
HIV/AIDS and Sexual and Reproduction Health Rights (SRHR)
HIV/AIDS and reproductive health is one of the focal issues in the planning and interventions in gender sessions, conventions and social actions with a view to providing more complete knowledge and awareness of the causes, risks, managements, treatments of HIV/AIDS. A group of HIV awareness Volunteers (HAV) works in each unit who has the aptitude and knowledge to identify the vulnerable groups and try to reduce their vulnerability through awareness building. CMES’s awareness, actions and campaigns on Sexual Health and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) emphasizes on taking personal responsibility and linkages with local health care facilities relevant to sexual and reproductive health. AAYWOs assist through training linkages and other supports to establish SRHR Service.