Exploring sexuality of physically disabled people in Urban Bangladesh through photo-narratives

 

This scoping study will look into disability in mediation with the intersections of gender, sex and sexuality in Bangladesh. Inspired from the innovative method of photo-voice, this project will employ photography for the disabled participants to talk about their lived experiences. It will aim to start critical discussions and advocacy around disability, sexuality and SRHR in Bangladesh and initiate interventions around SRHR for disabled adolescents and youth. This project is conducted in partnership with Niketon (the Netherlands) and funded by Share-Net International.

Preventing early marriage in poor urban settlements in Bangladesh

Project Duration: Oct 2015-Oct 2018

Donor: IDRC, Canada

Partners: Bangladesh Legal Aid Services and Trust (BLAST), Brac Adolescent Development Program (ADP), MEJNIN Project

Overview: The effectiveness of current interventions is limited by the lack of knowledge about the nature of child marriage in the context of urban slums. After extensive discussions with key stakeholders who are active in child marriage prevention programming, we have identified a range of issues and puzzles that prevent these organizations from providing more effective, accessible, and context-specific programming to address the structural issues (social, cultural, economic) that influence early/child marriage in urban slums. This study will use a sequential exploratory mixed methods design to explore the phenomenon of early and child marriage in two urban slums, one in Dhaka and one in Chittagong.
Objectives: A central objective of this project is to identify the specific realities of life in urban slums that lead families to choose early marriage for their daughters or lead adolescents to choose early marriage for themselves. How do the determinants of ECM change when you look through an urban lens? Does the urban slum environment offer greater opportunities to prevent ECM? How do some girls manage to stay unmarried into adulthood? The literature review showed there is a dearth of literature focusing on ECM in the urban context, especially in-depth qualitative studies. Most programme interventions were designed based on findings from quantitative studies in rural areas, but do they translate into change in behaviour for urban adolescents?
We will also investigate what circumstances allow some young women to stay unmarried into adulthood. We will then share this knowledge with stakeholders in both the government and NGO sector, and assist our partners to apply this knowledge to future programme planning. With more robust evidence on the nature of ECM in urban slums, our partners will be better equipped to design relevant interventions which address the hardships faced by unmarried and married adolescents, and to also address the structural issues of poverty and access to education, ultimately aiming to reduce the prevalence of child marriage in the country.

Highlights:

  • An expert consultation meeting was held at JPGSPH in November 2015. Development, public health, human rights and law experts and practitioners met to discuss the current situation, challenges and practices in Bangladesh surrounding consent and choice within the context of child, early and forced marriage. Experts voiced concerns over the diverse definitions describing what child, early and forced marriage constitutes and how to tackle social, cultural and economic factors that create barriers to ensuring women and girl’s right to equality, liberty and freedom of expression.
  • Presentation on ‘Emerging themes and insights on early marriage narratives in urban slums’ in Oct 2016 at a seminar on ‘Early marriage: Women’s life choices in Bangladesh’ co-hosted by JPGSPH and BRAC University
  • Participated in a panel discussion hosted by Share-net Bangladesh in Oct 2016 on ‘Current themes and campaigns in SRHR’
  • Training and Capacity building of Team members: All project activities have been used as learning and training opportunities to develop the capacity of research team members in practical research skills, analytical thinking, writing, field work planning and subject knowledge.

In summary, the research team have been involved in training in the following areas:

    • Comprehensive training in qualitative research methods via a Coursera course from the University of Amsterdam
    • Scientific writing: 2 early stage researchers are attending a 6-day course conducted by senior scientists at JPGSPH
    • Quantitative analysis: 1 week full-time course taught by faculty at the JPGSPH attended by 3 staff.
    • Mixed methods research: 2 week training course at Heidelberg University, attended by one junior member of the team and early stage researcher
    • Leadership & Programme Management: 1 week training workshop by MDF Asia held in Colombo, Srilanka, attended by a mid-level team member
    • A team member facilitated the JPGSPH flagship course on Men, masculinity and SRHR, held in Cox’s Bazar in Feb 2016

Developing technical vocational educational training (TVET), higher education (HE) and training on Sexual and reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) in the health and population sector in Bangladesh(NUFFIC)

Overview

The James P Grant School of Public Health (JPGSPH) of BRAC University, in partnership with Reproductive Health Services Training and Education Programme (RHSTEP) and the National Institute of Population Research and Training (NIPORT), wants to develop (technical) vocational educational training (TVET), higher education (HE) and training on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in the health and population sector in Bangladesh. JPGSPH is the lead partner while, MDF Training & Consultancy is the consortium leader for this project.

The goal of this project is to strengthen the institutional capacity of various educational institutes and non-profit organisations, working towards a better understanding of SRHR in Bangladesh and increasing collaboration and advocacy to empower professionals in academia, health care, population and education for the benefit of men and women in Bangladesh.

Capacity building of health, population and education services is well supported by the government of Bangladesh and other partners working in the country. However, there is little understanding of health stuff and educators with regard to gender, sexuality and human rights. The expected results of this project are knowledge creation and knowledge management, sustainable collaboration and advocacy; development and implementation of SRHR curricula and related skills; capacity development of the three national partners.

Objectives:

  • To strengthen the institutional setting working towards a better understanding of SRHR in Bangladesh.
  • To increase the delivery of rights-based SRHR services, collaboration and advocacy to empower professionals in academia, health care, population and education.

 

Activities

  • Knowledge creation

Three staff members were selected undertake their PhD research on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in Bangladesh, on topics which fit the research and advocacy strategy of the Centre and which is executed and presented in line with international standards of academic quality.

  • Needs assessment study of NIPORT by CGSRHR

The Centre of Excellence for Gender, Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (CGSRHR), in partnership with CREA and MDF, conducted a needs assessment study for National Institute of Population Research and Training (NIPORT) to review the existing curricula and mode of training delivery for the government Frontline Worker Assistants (FWA) and Frontline Worker Volunteers (FWV) who are the core cadre providing reproductive health services in the rural communities. The revised curricula will include an additional component which would encompass a range of modules on SRHR issues. With the inclusion of sexuality in the government’s curricula for the community, this will be a leap forward in mainstreaming the SRHR issue. CGSRHR’s recommendation also led to the development of a SRHR cell within NIPORT - the first of its kind within a government organisation. The study was conducted in four regions of the country. The study, led by NIPORT, will lead to revision and development of the curricula by the Centre with technical assistance from CREA.

Capacity Building

Flagship short course on Gender and SRHR

CGSRHR, in partnership with the Institute of Gender Studies at Radboud University and CREA, offered two five-day long "Flagship Short Course on Gender and SRHR” in 2014 and 2015 at the James P Grant School of Public Health (JPGSPH). After a successful pilot in 2014, the course was offered for the second time in 2015. All together, 65 participants from 14 local and international organisations attended the course. Participants engaged in debates, case presentations, shared experiences, clarified doubts and expressed their concerns and opinions.

The course aimed to provide conceptual clarity on gender, sexuality, reproductive health and rights in the realm of public health. A panel discussion with sexual minority group leaders gave the participants a sense of what remains to be done, both at personal and professional levels with regards to gender and SRHR.

Refresher session for participants of first round of "Flagship Short Course on Gender and SRHR” A refresher session was held for the first round participants of "Flagship Short Course on Gender and SRHR” on 5 September 2015. In partnership with the Institute of Gender Studies at Radboud University and CREA, the session answered three main questions: 'What has stuck with you?’; 'What have you used?’; and 'What challenges have you faced?'. Among others factors, participants gave examples of how ethics and maintaining confidentiality, the concept of sexuality, and knowledge of existing laws on SRHR, etc. were being incorporated in the programme design. The second part involved a participant sharing her experience of working around the recent debate in Bangladesh on child marriage laws. A number of participants mentioned they have referred their colleagues to participate in the second course that was to be offered so that everyone could be on the same platform of understanding.

 

Advocacy
• Roopban LGBT Youth Leadership Workshop – Talking about sex and sexuality
Roopban, a network for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community, with the support of CGSRHR organised a two-day long youth leadership programme for the LGBT community members in February 2015. From grassroots organisers to various professionals conducted sessions on decision-making process, safe sex, sexuality, community mobilisation, and leadership. Over 28 young men and women actively participated for two days, engaging with the speakers, contributing to the discussions and learning to network to further create an inclusive community. The participants raised questions on sexuality, belonging, and negotiating with family and work place to build their capacities in their respective lives and circumstances.

Participants ranged from young professionals to students both from within and outside of Dhaka. The workshop also provided a safe space for the participants to talk about their challenges, raising their issues and concerns as well as providing a support system to bring about an effective change.

• Photo narratives and publication of booklet on masculinity
A compilation of 50 compelling photo-narratives and views on both traditional and non-traditional masculinity has been made to start a dialogue on masculinity and gender politics and explore the ways masculinity can be expressed in multiple and non-oppressive manners. The booklet is being used by youth communities, organisations working on gender and SRHR, social media campaigns and website materials for reference. The booklet is also being used as course material for various courses being offered by the School.

Additionally, a number of workshops in high schools and public universities in Dhaka were held to start dialogues on masculinity and power and its implications on gender roles in Bangladesh. It also helped to raise awareness and sensitise perceptions regarding heterosexuality, non-heterosexual and gender non-conforming men, and male privileges that exist in the society.

Partners/donor

Donor: Netherlands Initiative for capacity development in higher education (NICHE), Netherlands University Foundation for International Cooperation (NUFFIC)
Timeline: 4 years (1 April 2013 to 31 March 2017)

Partner organisations

International:
• MDF Training and Consultancy B.V.
• Rutgers WPF
• Institute of Gender Studies, Radboud University Nigmegen, Netherlands
• Creating Resources for Empowerment in Action (CREA), India

National:
• National Institute of Population Research and Training (NIPORT)
• Reproductive Health Services Training and Education Program (RHSTEP)