Promoting Human Rights and Education in Bangladesh - Nicola Hurd

THE Chittagong based non-governmental organisation PHREB (Promoting Human Rights and Education in Bangladesh) has been running long-term school-based awareness campaigns since their establishment in 2004. The purpose of these campaigns is to educate young people on human rights issues and encourage them to speak out and defend their own human rights. These young people will gain confidence, which will empower them to mobilise their families and communities in the fight against gender-based violence.

The campaign begins in the form of workshops, in which young girls and boys learn through presentations and demonstrations from PHREB staff members about a variety of issues including illnesses and diseases, health care and sanitation, safe water and healthy eating, gender equality and violence against women. The students then participate in group-work sessions, to discuss what they have learned and then impart this knowledge to their peers through drama, song, dancing or debate.

During these workshops the staff select girls from each class to attend training sessions and seminars, which equip them with the tools needed to become members of Bangladesh Kishori Adhikar Forum (BKAF)

In these training sessions and seminars the girls learn in depth about the issues affecting themselves and other females in Bangladesh. They also learn how to raise their voice in order to seek and access their fundamental rights.

During the violence against Women seminars, the girls can speak out about the violence, abuse and victimisation they are suffering.

Police officials attending these seminars can then offer advice and support to the girls. On 16th July 2009 the deputy police commissioner of Chittagong (North) Mr. Banaj Kumar Majumdar attended PHREB's seminar, giving the girls further opportunity to be heard and further highlighting the importance of reporting violent incidents to the police.

PHREB has been reaching out to a number of new schools since the beginning of July. Campaigns in these new schools have been very successful, with PHREB staff doing an excellent job of engaging these young people, whose views and ideas have been inspirational. Students have been enthusiastic and energetic about learning; many of them asking for the sessions to continue for longer and wanting to know when they will next be visited by PHREB.

Currently PHREB runs campaigns at 250 schools per year, reaching out to over 300,000 students.

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Digital Sexual Harassment in Digital Bangladesh

FOR 16-year-old Rabeya* living in a small town in Sylhet, the introduction of the Internet was a blessing in many ways. With strict parents who did not allow her to go out of the house alone, she was glad to have access to another world where there was no one overseeing her interactions or telling her what to do. Before long, she developed a relationship with a man who claimed to be working in a bank in Dhaka, with whom she shared intimate details of her life. After a few months of chatting, he demanded that she send him explicit pictures of herself. When she refused, his whole demeanour towards her changed; he began to send her highly inappropriate images and videos and make derogatory comments about her appearance and character. As Rabeya tried to block and delete him from his friend list, he threatened to call her parents and tell them what a “whore” she was.

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Starting believing myself

every night and day my father beats my mother and my mother beats her five children including me. She always beaten physically and harassed mentally but she does not make any protest. I personally asked her many times to leave this house but she said where she will go. She does not have any other place to go. She will be beating up till her death. She used to say that this is life of a woman. I will be going through the same life in my future, she said. I came to this school to change my life. Sir, would you give me a life different from my mother? She asked this question to the ED of PHREB.

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