International Youth Day: Dreams and Confidence Go Hand-in-Hand for Very Young Adolescents in Bangladesh

Published on August 7, 2023

By Mona Bormet, Program Director, Faith Engagement Team, MCGL

Shyamoli, a 13-year-old girl living in a remote village in southwest Bangladesh, comes from a family that is low-income and faces social discrimination in the Hindu community as Mundas, the ethnic minority group to which they belong, are considered as lower caste.

We want more: A group of 10–14-year-old girls participating in a Choices session on discrimination in Bongshipur Village, Ishwaripur Union. March 24, 2022.

She gained the confidence to dream of being a teacher through MOMENTUM Country and Global Leadership’s Choices, Voices, Promises (CVP) program, a gender-focused curriculum for very young adolescents (VYAs) between the ages of 10-14 years, as well as parents and communities. The intervention, originally developed by Save the Children, aims to help VYAs discover alternatives to conventional gender roles and behaviors using a curriculum of age and developmentally appropriate activities designed to stimulate discussion and reflection among VYA girls and boys. These include making drawings of their hopes and dreams, engaging boys and girls in performing household chores together, and offering a range of role playing activities. The goal is to help them challenge restrictive norms and promote healthy behaviors.

The program was run by faith-based organizations World Renew and its local partner, Faith in Action (FIA), with funding from MOMENTUM in 2021 and 2022.

Shyamoli says, “I learned we need to share our hopes and dreams with our parents. Now they know I dream to be a teacher in future.”

Boys engaged in a Choices session on discrimination in Bongshipur Village, Ishwaripur Union. March 24, 2022.

Shyamoli learned what it feels like to discriminate against others and how boys and girls should be treated equally and have equal opportunities. She is one of 301 very young adolescents (146 boys and 155 girls) who participated in this program.

Toma, a 13-year-old girl who also participated, explains her own experience: “In Choices, I learned that girls and boys are equal and both can do all kinds of work. It was good that both my brother and I were in Choices. Now I have a good relationship with my brother. We help each other in household chores. My brother helps me to wash dishes and to keep the house clean and tidy. We play together, prepare our homework together, and go to school together.”

Parent engagement: Voices session on gender equitable division of household tasks with mothers in Telipara, Saidpur, Mominpur union, Northwest Bangladesh. Voices sessions are to help increase dialogue between parents and children that improve equity in the household.




March 29, 2022

“I will make sure that both my son and daughter get equal time off to complete their homework and chores and to play with friends.”

—Parent in Voices program

Walking past rice fields to meet with a group of parents for a Voices session in Bongshipur Village, Ishwaripur Union. March 24, 2022.

Promises interventions are focused on shifting norms within the community to create an environment where boys and girls are equally valued.

Parental engagement: Voices session on boys and girls having equal time for homework. Bongshipur Village, Ishwaripur Union. March 24, 2022.

“Most of the girls in our society drop out of school early because of financial constraints, social barriers, and lack of privacy and security. We must get out from these, and then it will be good for our girls.”

—Teacher, age 35

Community engagement: Promises session which highlighted the hopes and dreams of adolescents with community members. Vobanipur, Habra Union, Southwest Bangladesh. March 29, 2022.

“It’s a good idea to promote equality between girls and boys. If our children know about equality, then in the future, they will also practice equality with their children.”

—Teacher, age 45

“I used to perform child marriages at the request of the parents. But now, I talk to the parents and teII them that if they still proceed with it then I will call 109 [government hotline] for legal action.”

—Faith leader

Lessons Learned

Community ownership: A Promises poster highlighting the hopes and dreams of adolescents was moved from the location where it was discussed with adult community members to local primary and secondary schools where others can continue to learn from the poster. Southwest Bangladesh.

Programming through a gender lens is effective when it simultaneously impacts the individual, family, and community.

Partnering with the local government is key to successfully implementing a program such as CVP. Support from local leaders, key community influencers, religious leaders, and government leaders encouraged community members to embrace the shift in traditional gender norms and trust the changes that the program brought.

Since local organizations have long-standing relationships with the community and local government entities, including health services, they are well positioned to reach a range of diverse community members and stakeholders in behavior change programming.

Program participants report that boys and girls are equally invested in fulfilling their hopes and dreams following participation in the program. Boys are more willing to help their sisters with household chores, and relationships among siblings have improved. Parents report that they are placing equal importance on the education and health of both their sons and daughters.

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