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  Volume 6 | Issue 30 | July 29, 2012 |


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Growing Up Safe and Healthy

Naziba Basher

On July 12, 2012, icddr,b held a dissemination seminar on the baseline study of sexual and reproductive health and rights and violence against women in Dhaka slums at icddr,b's Sasakawa Auditorium in Mohakhali, Dhaka. The study is known as, 'Growing up Safe and Healthy (SAFE): Addressing Sexual and Reproductive Rights and Violence against Adolescent Girls and Women in Urban Bangladesh.'

Advocate Tarana Halim speaking to the young aundience. Photo: ICDDR,B

The study results indicate that women and girls' sexual and reproductive rights are being constantly violated by gender-based violence. In her speech, the Chief Guest of the event, Advocate Tarana Halim, Honourable Member of Parliament, Government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh said, “We must implement existing laws to give the right back to the women of Bangladesh.”

Special guest, Ella de Voogd, First Secretary, Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (EKN), Dhaka, mentioned in her speech that, “This survey makes it clear that the rate of violence against women and girls in slums is extreme and cannot be ignored.” The event was chaired by Dr Tasnim Azim, Director of icddr,b's Centre for HIV & AIDS.

Funded by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the SAFE project brings together a strong network of legal service providers, reproductive and sexual health providers, human rights advocates, women's rights advocates and research organisations. Implementing agencies include the Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust, icddr,b, Marie Stopes Clinic Society, Nari Maitree (We Can Campaign) and the Population Council.

The Baseline study included a qualitative study and surveys of men and women. The female survey included 4,458 women aged 15 to 29, while the men's survey included 1,617 men aged 18 to 35. Insightful information was collected through interviews of men, women, girls, key informants and focus group discussions.

The study reveals that gender-based violence is occurring at alarming rates in Dhaka slums. According to the study, 76 percent of the women surveyed had endured physical or sexual abuse during the past 12 months, with 43 percent having suffered both physical and sexual abuse. Approximately 85 percent reported that their husbands restricted their access to health care.

The SAFE project was launched on March 2011 for testing out intervention for reducing child marriage, teen pregnancy, and violence against women and girls, and increasing access to contraceptives. In order to achieve these goals, the intervention aims to increase awareness regarding sexual and reproductive rights (SRHR) and violence against women and girls (VAWG), create a demand for healthcare and legal services, create a community environment less conducive to the denial of SRHR and VAWG, and also lobby for law, policy, and procedural reforms in favour of SRHR and the right of all women and girls to live a violence free life.

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