Pop culture with a purpose: Violence against women in Bangladesh

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Violence against women and adolescent girls is a systemic and ingrained problem in Bangladesh. Oxfam Novib worked with a group of local partners in Bangladesh, including BRAC, WECAN, HASAB and Rupantur, to address the problem in the Khulna Division through an intervention strategy centered on the utilization of edutainment methodologies. The project combined interactive, high quality modern communications tools, including televised docudramas and public service commercials, and traditional edutainment, such as street theatre, together with targeted and more intense school and community interventions in 10 select locations in the Khulna Division. As a result, more than 3,000 students (60 percent were girls) and 3,000 parents reported changing their values and attitudes towards sexual violence against adolescents. Through a mass campaign, the project reached approximately 500,000 people across the Bangladesh.
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  CASE STUDY OXFAM POP CULTURE WITH A PURPOSE - BANGLADESH www.oxfam.org Photo Credit: Gideon Mendel/Oxfam POP CULTURE WITH A PURPOSE Violence Against Women in Bangladesh - Edutainment Violence against women and adolescent girls is a systemic and ingrained problem in Bangladesh. Oxfam Novib worked with a group of local partners in Bangladesh, including BRAC, WECAN, HASAB and Rupantur, to address the problem in the Khulna Division through an intervention strategy centered on the utilization of edutainment methodologies. The project combined interactive, high quality modern communications tools, including televised docudramas and public service commercials, and traditional edutainment, such as street theatre, together with targeted and more intense school and community interventions in 10 select locations in the Khulna Division.  As a result, more than 3,000 students (60% were girls) and 3,000 parents reported changing their values and attitudes towards sexual violence against adolescents. Through a mass campaign, the project reached approximately 500,000 people across the Bangladesh.  CASE STUDY OXFAM POP CULTURE WITH A PURPOSE - BANGLADESH Page 2  of 18   VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN IN BANGLADESH Violence against women is a global problem, but the plight and situation of women and girls is particularly dire in Bangladesh. A significant number and percentage of Bangladeshi women suffer regular violence, mostly by partners or family members, often linked to sexual harassment and repressive relations. Globally more than 30% of women experience physical or sexual partner violence; in Bangladesh more than 60% of women are victims of physical and/or sexual partner violence (WHO, Lancet 2014; BDHS, BBS 2013). More than 80% of unmarried women and adolescent girls in Bangladesh report experience with sexual violence (BBS 2013). Underpinning this situation is a culture of eve-teasing that perpetuates this cycle and accepts a traditional ‘boys will be boys’ culture, resulting in widespread harassment and assault. As a consequence, girls and women in Bangladesh are among the least likely women anywhere in the world to speak out on such issues while also having among the highest rates of early marriage and pregnancy. The ratification of important treaties, such as the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), and the agreement on the international efforts, such as the Millennium Development Goals and Sustainable Development Goals, have done much to advance the status of women. Civil society is creating pressure on corresponding laws and policies at the national level in Bangladesh to put an end to gender inequity and VAW. Unfortunately, however, their implementation still lags and women continue to suffer structural and frequent violence in their home and in their partner and sexual relations. Physical and psychological violence is widespread in Bangladesh. Women victims are often unprotected and perpetrators are not punished. Female citizens of Bangladesh are often deprived of their basic rights. Men (but also women) by and large legitimize this violence with socio-culturally and religiously inspired traditions and norms that sanction aggressive and repressive male behaviour, the accept the culture of eve-teasing among children, adolescents and women, and that perpetuate a culture of female inferiority, both in the public and private spheres. The media and their portrayal of women and gender relations often reinforce these norms and stereotypes. In Bangladesh, the constitution guarantees equal rights for women, but in reality women do not have equal access to information, to education (at the secondary and tertiary levels in Bangladesh), to economic opportunities, basic human rights services and decision making power. The dominating patriarchal culture denies their human dignity and their recognition as citizens. The incidence of violence against women and girls (VAW) is very high and is the major factor in women’s subordination. Intimate partner violence and gender based violence is common place, as is dowry related violence, sexual harass-ment, limitations in mobility and even acid throwing. Sexual harassment is very common and it is the main cause of girl suicides and a major driver for very early marriages. Notions of honour and the fear of sexual harassment lead families, and in many cases girls themselves, to seek and pursue early marriages in Bangladesh. While Bangladesh has made substantial gains to combat the  CASE STUDY OXFAM POP CULTURE WITH A PURPOSE - BANGLADESH Page 3  of 18   institution, Bangladesh continues to have the fourth lowest mean age of marriage and the lowest median age of marriage globally. Moreover, many Bangladeshis lack basic knowledge of and an understanding of sexual harassment, the ill effects of domestic, partner and gender violence, and the spectrum of actions considered harassing. Most Bangladeshis identify physical forms of violence as such, but they lack awareness and understanding on a number of related, and in some cases equally or more damaging, forms of violence, including verbal and psychological violence and harassment. The culture of acceptance and impunity for perpetrators has resulted in Bangladeshi women being among the least likely to speak out on issues, cases and incidents of violence, including intimate partner physical and sexual violence. Adolescent girls in particular are often reluctant to speak out or up for fear of loss of honour, reprisal and retribution. Most cases of VAW go widely unreported and uncovered. Considering this very alarming situation, Oxfam Novib and its partners decided to take strong initiatives to stop the violence against women and through edutainment in order to reduce the incidents, rates and prevalence of violence against women and girls. . COMBATING VIOLENDE AGAINST WOMEN The Pop Culture with a Purpose project was set up as an edutainment campaign to combat Violence against Women (VAW) Oxfam Novib convened an alliance or organisation working toward an end to violence against women through edutainment. The alliance members included BRAC, HASAB, WE CAN and Rupantur. Oxfam Novib worked intensively to help develop and improve the capacity of the respective implementing partners and alliance members. Ultimately, the consortium aimed to aims to upscale the successful experiences The specific objective of the project sought to contribute to the reduction of the incidence sexual harassment in Khulna district in Bangladesh by challenging existing gender norms, values and attitudes that perpetuate violence against women. Throughout the project Oxfam Novib provided coordination and managerial support and steering as well as technical input on both edutainment strategies and interventions and technical expertise toward strategies to address violence against women. Oxfam Novib also helped the Bangladesh alliance and project partners connect to and coordinate with other global and country teams working on the project. POP CULTURE WITH A PURPOSE Since 2005 Oxfam Novib has invested in the exchange of experiences around edutainment. This s resulted in a Global Edutainment partnership. The Pop Culture with a Purpose project was one component under this global partnership. It applied a rights-based approach, to shift and transform unequal gender norms and power distribution that manifests itself in the violation of women’s human r  ight to safety, bodily integrity and health. Norms and power relations are central to socially legitimizing and maintaining VAW. As such, their transformation is central to VAW prevention. The project used edutainment: a strategy that combines mainstream mass communication with community education and mobilization. Media nowadays  CASE STUDY OXFAM POP CULTURE WITH A PURPOSE - BANGLADESH Page 4  of 18   are the most popular and reliable and effective medium key in shaping how people see the world. Programs on TV and radio, magazines and cell phones and internet-based communication all over the world tend to reproduce gender inequali ties, reinforce stereotypes about men’s and woman’s desired behaviour. In most countries mass media do not address social issues or stimulate people to critically reflect on their own situation. In most of the developing world, edutainment and the critical use of social new media is a new and emerging phenomenon. Edutainment strategies can help changing stereotypes and use the same ‘mass communication weapon’: they are attractive, high quality media that reach large numbers of people. Such media can be used to project role models, create public awareness, inform people about their rights and support lobby and advocacy strategies for human rights aimed at national or international levels. So edutainment could be used as a effective and timely technique and way to change the negative behaviours and attitude towards women. This project addressed the various forms of VAW and their underlying causes. It aspired to contribute to changes that allow women and girls to lead a violence free life. This requires them to be empowered and the underlying norms to be challenged. The project was above all geared towards prevention. It focused on physical, sexual violence, marital rape, sexual abuse and harassment, harmful traditional practices, child marriages and forced marriages; as these occur at home and publicly. Special and particular focus, however, was placed on sexual harassment of adolescent girls.  As the key strategy of the project, Edutainment (Education Entertainment), a strategy that engages mass audiences, particularly youth and women, through the power of attractive, persuasive and cutting edge media, popular culture and arts and combines those with on the ground and virtual community education and mobilization, was effective in conveying awareness about sexual harassment and violence against women. In Bangladesh traditional cultural elements like pot songs (a very popular traditional song) were mixed with street theatre shows and three episodes drama series. The various forms of media and culture were all based on the same message: Don’t blame the girls; Listen to girls, Trust and Stand by them. These strategies alongside a strong basis of community change-makers already formed by local partners resulted in a impactful communication towards girls and boys, parents, teachers and the broader community, including law enforcement officers, politicians. The project applied the following strategies:    Development of Behavioural Change Communication (BCC)  publications/materials:  Developing materials on Sexual Harassment (SH) to sensitise community people, link up with the education institutions. These materials will be developed for community peoples, students & teachers, youths, project staff and different internal & external audiences. A few examples of BCC materials are poster, booklet, leaflet, billboard, banner, workbook, reports, journals etc.    Capacity building of Local level Alliances: Strengthen local level alliance (district) to promote and strengthen the program and ensure services in a sustainable manner.    Orientation & Capacity building:  Integration of gender to ensure youth girls and boys are equally benefited from different programmes and projects implemented by Alliances. In addition to, development of
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