National Multimedia Campaign on Adolescent Issues (Bangladesh)

In Bangladesh, 52% of girls are married before they reach the age of 18, and 29% are married before they turn 15 – making Bangladesh the country with the highest rate of child marriages of girls under the age of 15 in the world. The pervasiveness of early marriage throughout the country stems from the underlying complex web of social and cultural norms surrounding gender roles, chastity, maturity, conformity, fear for girls’ safety, poverty, lack of education, and the perception of young females as economic burdens. While child marriage is prevalent across Bangladesh, poor adolescents living in rural areas are most severely affected.

Not only do these marriages truncate childhoods and violate adolescents’ basic rights to life, health, education, and development, they also contribute to lifelong gender inequity. In most cases in which a young girl is forced into an early marriage, she must leave school in order to fulfill the heavy workload required by her husband’s household. Because of this, girls married as minors are virtually bonded laborers, subject to the same hazards and lack of bargaining power endured by child domestic laborers. Furthermore, girls who marry very young are at an increased risk for mental health disorders, including depression and suicide, suffer from early pregnancy, with approximately 40% of girls giving birth before the age of 18, and often experience social isolation. As a result, a devastatingly high percentage of girls are left alone to cope with the physical and emotional challenges of early marriage.

The eradication of child marriage and other pressing adolescent issues in Bangladesh requires strong protective and effective legislation, policies, and programs. UNICEF’s National Multimedia Campaign Strategy to ‘End Child Marriage’ is helping to address this need by translating knowledge into attitude and social norms shifts that result in positive changes in behaviors on an individual and community level. PCI Media Impact is serving as a strategic partner to UNICEF Bangladesh and its production partner, Asiatic Marketing Communications Limited by fostering the successful development and implementation of an Entertainment-Education telenovela and a national trans-media campaign. Captivating storytelling will directly reach adolescents around Bangladesh, as well as caregivers and community leaders, in hopes of stimulating dialogue and behavior change that promotes the rights and well-being of girls and young women. The 26-episode TV show and campaign will educate community members on adolescent issues, allow caregivers to protect the future of their children, and empower adolescents to raise their voices and become active change-makers. The campaign will launch in summer 2017.

For the formal evaluation of the campaign, UNICEF Bangladesh contracted the local research partner BRAC University in collaboration with the renowned Communications for Development M&E expert, Dr. Suruchi Sood. An in-depth qualitative and quantitative assessment is designed to understand if the program was implemented as planned and the outcomes are as effective as expected.

Asiatic Marketing Communications Limited supported the formative research phase, including a comprehensive media landscape. The analysis of communication habits and accessibility in the target audiences shaped the campaign outputs and selected communication channels.

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