“I am a sword-less warrior fighting against all disparities in my community. Trying hard to educate women and adolescent girls by providing awareness messages on bad consequences of gender-based violence in our regular community sessions and discussions” – says 22 years old Khadija Akhtar. She is one of active community volunteers of the “Achieving Universal Access to Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) in Host Communities of Cox’s Bazar” project (hereinafter, the Project), implemented by CARE Bangladesh, with the technical support of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and funded by the Government of Canada.
As she often highlights, “Our endless efforts to eradicate child marriage in Kutubjom union will be remain on-going passionately and I seek more support and cooperation from the team working in Moheshkhali Upazila”. Significantly, in Kutubjom union, child marriage is one of critical types of harmful practices community is practicing since long. Khadija is living in this union and visits door-to-door to disseminate messages to increase awareness and reduce GBV and harmful practices in her community. Through regular court-yard meetings, she sensitizes community women and adolescent girls to change traditional norms and practices which are harmful for women and girls for their resilience building.
Initially shy and lacking communication skills, Khadija gradually improved her skills through educational and learning initiatives in frames of the Project. Through engagement in the Project, she has received continuous training on GBV and its consequences on women and on the society as a result, which shifted her mindset and actions. She realized that her bravery, courage to speak, communication skills can make a difference for the rural women in her community. “Talking to village women opened my mind and created scope to know a lot about the needs of others, especially about women and adolescent girl’s views and frustrations”, - she states.
Her involvement with the Project as Community Volunteer is bringing a lot of changes in her own life as well. At work in the field, she encounters various obstacles, including resistance of men in regard to women joining community meetings, to knowledge sharing, as well as infrastructural difficulties due to remote location. There are still many obstacles in the way of women's empowerment as husbands make interferences in the pathways of women mobility, ratio of domestic violence is arising significantly though some cases those are not reported as violence case.
“Currently my fellow village women are helping me to arrange meetings for them, getting full cooperation from Union Parishad (UP) in different ways. I believe, if women get involved in income-generating activities, their families and their life quality will improve”, – says Khadija.