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When Momena Khatun, a woman member of Rangchhati Union of Kalmakanda upazila, heard that a child marriage ceremony was taking place in Ramnathpur village, two kilometers away from her home of Choitanoyapara, she could not sit idle.

“On September 19 last, I heard that 16-year old Koli Akhter of Ramnathpur village was being forced to get married and all were set for her marriage. I went there immediately and stopped the child marriage bid with the help of police,” Momena told BSS.

Describing her experience in foiling early marriage bid, the UP member said it was not easy for her. “When I went to local leaders and guardians requesting them to stop the child marriage bid, they insulted me saying to keep my eyes closed and do my own job,” she added.

In consultation with the Rangchhati Union Parishad chairman, Momena said, she then phoned the local office of the Women and Children Affairs Department seeking help to stop the child marriage bid.

“And, finally, police came from nearby police station and stopped the early marriage bid,” the local public representative said, adding she stopped two child marriage bids in her locality in the last two months.

Showing similar experience in foiling child marriage bid, women member Parul Akhter of Kalmakanda Union Parishad said she was informed one month ago that guardians were arranging marriage for an eighth-grader girl Jahura Khatun at her relatives’ home at Pechamari village.

The under-aged girl was forced to get married over phone with Babul Miah of Chandail village, she added.

Being informed that the marriage of the fourteen-year-old girl, daughter of Baju Miah, was arranged, a mobile court, led by Kalmakanda Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO), rushed to the spot and foiled the marriage and penalised three people, Parul said.

She said marriage registrar Khairul Kabir was fined Taka 30,000 in the incident while guardians of bride and bridegroom Taka 50,000.

Kalmaknada Upazila female vice-chairman Afroza Begum Shimu said they formed a women development forum involving all the women public representatives of the upazila with the technical support from UNDP’s Efficient and Accountable Local Governance (EALG) Project and all are now working together to prevent child marriage and violence against women there.

She observed that the rate of child marriage and violence against women is very high in the upazila due to illiteracy and ignorance of people.

“Upon formation of the Women Development Forum earlier this year, we are getting success in preventing child marriage and violence against women,” Shimu said.

About the high prevalent of child marriage and violence against women in Kalmakanda, UNDP district facilitator Md Abdur Razzaque said Kalmakanda is a hard-to-reach area where a huge number of lower-income people live in.

He said poor literacy rate and lack of employment and awareness among locals are contributing to child marriage and violence against women in the upazila.

Local government institutions and administration are working there to stop child marriage and violence against women, Razzaque said but gender perspective specific progrmmes are needed to make local people aware of the social menaces.

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