Marriage is an earnest bond between two individuals. And both the individuals involved should be consenting adults. More often than not, the matter of age is disregarded in Bangladesh and girls are married off before the age of 18. Young girls in our motherland are often denied the right to flourish as people, to learn and the right to enjoy their livelihood. And in order to address these social stigmas, there is a new animated cartoon series called Shahana.
This 17 year old has strong ideas about the rights of girls and initiates an “Adolescent Club” along with her friends through which they advocate prevention of child marriage in her community. At the same time, she creates awareness on sexual and reproductive health and gender-based violence.
The UNFPA Bangladesh and the Swiss Embassy in Bangladesh collaborated to create the series. It took a year of planning, research and development in order to make this series. The effort of various writers, artists, adolescents, Development Partners, Government Partners and researchers resulted in this positive measure. The plot and characters are influenced by field testing and workshops.
Child marriage is still fairly widespread in Bangladesh. According to UNFPA, 62% of all women between the ages of 20 to 49 were married before the age of 18. Child marriages tend to follow childbirth before the age of 18, the upshot being the highest adolescent fertility rate in South Asia, out of every 1000 girls 113 are pregnant or have had a baby while still being adolescents. Childbirth during adolescence can have a serious aftermath on a girl’s health. Deaths occurring from childbirth and pregnancy are prevalent for girls aged 15 to 19 in developing countries. Furthermore, child marriage has been evident of not only interfering with a girl’s social development perspectives but also her education.
Child marriage forms a fragment of a larger custom of violating human rights that is deeply embedded in our society. UNFPA recognizes that it requires a broader range of interventions and time to uproot such a practice, including educating youths about the drawbacks of child marriage and their families, schools and community leaders. A cartoon carrying out that very task while also being entertaining is brilliant because it has the potential attract the masses.
The animated series will air on five distinct national Bangladeshi television channels. The series is also set to be dubbed in Nepalese and will also be aired abroad. Every episode of the series is designed in a manner that each can be perceived independently while being true to the common storyline. Shahana’s story is set to echo the tales of many young girls in Bangladesh with the aim of raising awareness and bringing a change.