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Do child marriage and women’s empowerment discourses need new narratives?

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PPRC & UNFPA National CSO Consultation reviews progress on population, sustainable development and climate change impact ahead of the 7th Asian and Pacific Population Conference (APPC) in November 2023

With the approaching 7th Asian and Pacific Population Conference (APPC), due in November 2023 after an interval of ten years, it is high time to reflect back, with a retrospective review, on how well the prioritized programme of action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) and other thirteen priority action areas identified based on other prominent conferences, notably the UN Conference on Sustainable Development. This retrospection scrutinizes the headway achieved within these action areas, pinpointing the persistent challenges and barriers that hinder our quest for beneficial outcomes.

In this regard, an engaging discussion was triggered with a keynote presentation delivered by Dr Hossain Zillur Rahman, Executive Chairman of PPRC and former advisor of the Caretaker Government. The discussion was deliberated in the presence of diverse national CSO voices consisting of representatives from academia, NGOs, CSOs, the private sector, government, media, and development partners including UNFPA. This event was organised to explore the ground realities of population, sustainable development and cross-cutting issues such as child marriage, climate vulnerabilities, ageing, gender-based violence and more. 

PPRC, in partnership with UNFPA, scheduled this national-level CSO-led Consultation at Hotel Sarina in the capital city of Dhaka this Wednesday. This event was ensuing two local-level consultations that were successfully held at Gaibandha in the north and Cox’s Bazar in the south, as a part of the PPRC-UNFPA Strategic Advocacy Partnership. 

Ms Kristine Blokhus, the Representative, UNFPA was present at the consultation as the Guest of Honour. Ms. Kristine Blokhus, the Representative of UNFPA, expressed the importance of these discussions in shedding light on pressing issues. She emphasized the need for strong partnerships and youth leadership in driving change, especially concerning SRHR, climate resilience, and gender equality. Md Abdul Wazed, Senior Fellow and Programs Advisor of PPRC, retired additional secretary of the government also addressed the function as a resource person. 

“Human resource gaps in implementation, critical lack in cross-ministerial coordination, lack of disaggregated data, and lack of political priority support to health and population” have been underscored as critical challenges identified in the National Voluntary Survey 2023. 

The speakers emphasized on 11 priority actions that need to be addressed, such as a focus on adolescents and young people, child marriage, gender-based violence, poverty eradication, health, education and more, so as to reach the country’s goal of sustainable development. Furthermore, new issues were brought to light such as how the conversations around child marriage need to evolve and transform in order to effectively tackle the issue as well as the importance of increased collaboration between the public and private sectors. 

Dr. Hossain Zillur Rahman concluded by highlighting the necessity of reimagining issues such as child marriage and harnessing fresh perspectives to address them effectively. He stressed the importance of compelling voices and reconstructive approaches in finding solutions to these complex problems.

This CSO consultation is a progress review on Population, Sustainable Development and Cross-Cutting Issues. The discussion drew perspectives from the recent National Voluntary Survey to supplement the 7th Asian and Pacific Population Conference 2023.