Please briefly describe the initiative, what issue or challenge it aims to address and specify its objectives. (300 words maximum)
Kurigram district is located atremote and disaster prone area of Bangladesh. It has been inheriting various socio-economic problems and child marriage is one of those. Girls who get married at an early age often more susceptible to the health risks associated with early sexual initation and child bearing, including HIV and Obstetric fistula. These young girls who lack status, power, and maturity are often subjected to domestic violence, sexual abuse and social isolation. Early marriage deprives them of their education and meaningful work, which contribute to persistent poverty. It perpetuates an unrelenting cycle of gender inequality, poverty, highest rate of maternal and child mortality also. In Kurigram like whole Bangladesh half of the population are women. So overall sustainable development is not possible by leaving them behind. Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs facilitates marriage registration by marriage registrars. Thus, girls below 18 years and boys below 21 years are not allowed to marry. But there is a malpractice in Bangladesh which was acute in Kurigram that guardianswith the help of the marriage registrars deceive the government by submittingfalse physical necessary documents (these documentscan easily be forged). So to address this problem in an effective and sustainable way Office of the Deputy Commissioner, Kurigram innovated a project named “SMS Based Certification before Marriage Registration to Stop Child Marriage Project” which has later adapted by the Government of Bangladesh as “ICT Based Child Marriage Prevention Initiative” and has been implementing successfully in other districts including Kurigram. The objectives of the project were to stop child marriage by observing and monitoringthe activities of the marriage registrars and bring them under an uninterrupted surveillance and the ultimate goal was to bring down the child marriage rate from 78.2% to zero by engaging all the stakeholders.
Please explain how the initiative is linked to the selected category. (100 words maximum)
This initiative has the linkage with UNSPA category 5 which states promoting Gender Responsive Public Service. In a democratic country like Bangladesh public services should meet the needs and priorities of different groups of unprivileged people. A lack of Gender Responsive Public Services is both a source of inequality and a major barrier to poor and excluded women enjoying their rights. Improving Public Services is a vital to making progress on the fulfillment of women’s rights. So by eradicating a menace like child marriage through a Gender Responsive Public service named “SMS Based Certification before Marriage Registration to Stop Child Marriage Project”played a vital role to create more advanced and equal societies, countering socio-economic inequalities.
a. Please specify which SDGs and target(s) the initiative supports and describe concretely how the initiative has contributed to their implementation. (200 words maximum)
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which define global development priorities between now and 2030-include 5.3, “eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilations” (Under Goal 5 ‘Achieve gender equality and empower women and girls). Fully half of the SDGs will not be achieved without progress on child marriage prevention. This initiative has been contributing to achieve SDGs goal 5 as well as indirectly and partly goal 1, goal 2, goal 3, goal 4, goal 5, goal 8, goal 10 and goal 16. During first 6 months of its inception, it stopped 3,700 childmarriages.
b. Please describe what makes the initiative sustainable in social, economic and environmental terms. (100 words maximum)
a. Please explain how the initiative has addressed a significant shortfall in governance, public administration or public service within the context of a given country or region. (200 words maximum)
In the past, physical copy of birth certificate, academic certificate or national ID card was required as proof of age. However, these documents could be forged, which meant that many marriages were legally consecrated when the bride or groom was under age. With the new app, this is no longer a possibility, as the marriage registrars are under uninterrupted surveillances through such a digital integrated server, thereby significantly reducing chances of fraud.
In a democratic country like Bangladesh public services should meet the needs and priorities of different groups of unprivileged people. A lack of Gender Responsive Public Services is both a source of inequality and a major barrier to poor and excluded women enjoying their rights. Improving Public Services is a vital to making progress on the fulfillment of women’s rights. So by eradicating a menace like child marriage through a Gender Responsive Public service named “SMS Based Certification before Marriage Registration to Stop Child Marriage Project” this initiative has addressed the gap and shortfall of the prevailing government policies and projects regarding this issue.
b. Please describe how your initiative addresses gender inequality in the country context. (100 words maximum)
A huge publicity campaigns were made through electronic and other media, seminar and rallies were arranged and a number of workshops including all the stakeholders were held to make the service known to all.Even now based on this project the fathers of girls who are against child marriage and working to stop child marriagealong with GO/NGOs are have been declaring by the District Administration as “CHAMPION FATHER”and a program named “GIRLS NOT BRIDES” has been working in this regard. Besides the under 18 girls of the districts and their guardians, the other stakeholders such as the Union councils, Municipalities, Marriage registrars, District Registrars, Religious leaders and different secondary and higher secondary level schools all of them have been included actively and they have been helping their level best by informing the District Administration and other law enforcing authorities about child marriage related issues.
c. Please describe who the target group(s) were, and explain how the initiative improved outcomes for these target groups. (200 words maximum)
Under 18 girls of the District, their guardians ,the Union councils, Municipalities, Marriage registrars, District Registrars, Religious leaders and different secondary and higher secondary level schools.
This project was able to stop 3700 child marriages in only 6 months of its piloting time and even still now it has been implementing successfully.The target groups have become more aware of this project and a good number of complaints has been receiving from different part of the district through helplines 109, 333 and 16100. After this project, different initiatives have been made by the target groups such as making positive school environment for girls, improving girls’ health condition, giving various supports and creating other socio-economic facilities.
a. Please describe how the initiative was implemented including key developments and steps, monitoring and evaluation activities, and the chronology. (300 words)
To make the initiative work effectively and successfully the District Administration has develop a plan and stepped forward by monitoring and evaluating activities. At first counseling were done in every Upazillas. Under 18 girls of the District, their guardians and the other stakeholders such as the Union councils, Municipalities, Marriage registrars, District Registrars, Religious leaders and different secondary and higher secondary level schools all of them has been engaging actively and they helped their level best to inform the District Administration and other law enforcing authorities about child marriage related issues. A huge publicity campaigns were done through seminars, rallies, workshops, leaflets, meetings, cultural programs, road drama and other activities to make them aware of this project and they realized the necessity of this project to stop this menace and active involvement of them has been ensured. After that the stakeholders were trained to participate actively. Technological support from different Government departments was ensured. And then relevant Government and NGOs were engaged as working partners. Fund from a2i and human resources from different agencies were ensured to support the project effectively and thus it has been succeeded.
b. Please clearly explain the obstacles encountered and how they were overcome. (100 words)
Despite of unawareness among illiterates, people of all walks marked child marriage as one of the major barrier for Kurigram in the way of development, felt the necessity of combating the this problem and agreed to move forward along with the Government officials. All the people , target groups, political leaders and other stake holders welcomed the initiative since very beginning and that’s why active participation has ensured.
There was no social barrier or obstacle but financial. But with a strong mindset the District Administration managed to get fund from a2i, because of Governments positive mindset towards innovation which would be helpful in combating any problem or develop any pathway to achieve SDGs as well as the Digital Sonar Bangla.
a. Please explain in what ways the initiative is innovative in the context of your country or region. (100 words maximum)
In this era of digital Bangladesh, ICT has been used as a tool for different types of public service delivery but there was no ICT based service in Child Marriage Prevention activities before. For the first time Kurigram District Administration innovated this project which is an integrated technology based Marriage Registration system. The unique features are as follows:
1. Digital age verification through Birth certificate, educational certificate or NID both online and offline from any mobile operator.
2. Tracking data of previous marriage, student attendance in school to reduce drop out.
3. The system has list and scope of collaboration among matchmakers, marriage registrars, teachers, local Administrators and leaders, religious marriage solemnizers etc.
4. Messaging system to the relevant recipients.
5. Registration can be done through portal, SMS.
Innovative means introducing or using new ideas and methods to solve any problem or to get something done so this project was an innovation of Kurigram District Administration indeed.
b. Please describe, if relevant, how the initiative drew inspiration from successful initiative in other regions, countries and localities. (100 words maximum)
this innovation is completely a new idea. It is not an adaption from other contexts.The Government of Bangladesh is committed to eliminate child marriage by 2041. Though Kurigram topped in district level child marriage rate in Bangladesh. So the District administration was trying to find out a game changer which could be able to address this problem in a very effective and faster way. And this project was a Brainchild of the District Administration, Kurigram, and no other district in the country or other agencies had claimed it as an adaption from their innovation or from other contexts.
a. Has the initiative been transferred and/or adapted to other contexts (e.g. other cities, countries or regions) to your organization’s knowledge? If yes, please explain where and how. (200 words maximum)
This project is a unique innovation of the District Administration, Kurigram and developed to scale by Plan International. After a successful trial of the project it is now being rolled out across the country including Kurigram in partnership with the Prime minister’s Office. The government and the District Administration, Kurigram are also trying to innovate such faster route to address other social issues like women and child trafficking and so on.
b. If not yet transferred/adapted to other contexts, please describe the potential for transferability. (200 words maximum)
a. What specific resources (i.e. financial, human or others) were used to implement the initiative? (100 words maximum)
After initiating the project District Administration, Kurigram applied for a fund to the a2i (a UNDP and USAID supported Access to Information program ran from the Prime Minister’s Office of Bangladesh) to run the project successfully. Thea2i evaluated the possibility of success of this program and effectiveness and after being convinced with the satisfactory level“Innovation Fund Contract”between a2i-II and Deputy Commissioner, Kurigram. According to this contract the applicant got a fund to accomplishing the task.Officers and staffs of District Administration, other related offices, Plan International (an NGO), local leaders and volunteers were engaged as human resources.a2i, National Data Server and other relevant Government websites were used as infrastructure in this project.All these financial, human and other resources were used to implement the initiative.
b. Please explain what makes the initiative sustainable over time, in financial and institutional terms. (100 words maximum)
The sustainability Approach focuses on Individual sustainability, Social sustainability and Institutional sustainability. Sustainability at individual level has been achieved through empowering girls, growing self confidence among them, educating them, making environment for decent work and by reducing inequality by countering child marriages.
By bringing all the stakeholders under one umbrella through this project a positive social change already been made which will maintain the social sustainability.
Though it’s a gender responsive public service and innovated by the Government officials deliberately and a faster inclusive digital infrastructure is made to address this issue effectively so institutional sustainability will be maintained.
Moreover the Government itself has given award to this project after its successful piloting and its being replicating in other districts and contexts so this initiative will definitely be sustainable and will help to eradicate child marriage before 2041 from the country as per the Government’s commitment.
a. Was the initiative formally evaluated either internally or externally?
b. Please describe how it was evaluated and by whom? (100 words maximum)
Independent auditors’ report & financial statement by S.F. AHMED & CO and Toha Khan Zaman & Co. and Internal Evaluation by Audit report by Office of the Deputy Commissioner, Kurigram.
After the successful completion of this pilot project the Ministry of Public Administration, Ministry of women and children affairs, different high officials, the then Divisional Commissioner, who was the supervisory and controlling authority of the District Administration and NGOs visited and evaluated the success and effectiveness of this project.
c. Please describe the indicators and tools used. (100 words maximum)
With different indicators such as the number of beneficiaries, total fund spent, internet coverage, stakeholders engagement, reduced rate of child marriage, accessibility of the stakeholders, number of complaint received, reduced number of girls drop out, inclusiveness, ensured accountability of the marriage registered, publicity coverage and other indicators of the project. After all this evaluation a2i adapted and replicated it in other districts of the country including Kurigram and made an integrated national server. As a result this project won Public Administration Award-2018, the highest Award in the field of Public Administration in Bangladesh which is given from Ministry of Public Administration. Already 1 Upazilla (administrative tire under the District Administration) of Kurigram out of 9 Upazillas has been declared as ‘Child Marriage Free Upazilla’ and other 2 Upazillas are ready to be declared as ‘Child Marriage Free’ very soon. This project is being successfully implemented in other districts of the country as well.
d. What were the main findings of the evaluation (e.g. adequacy of resources mobilized for the initiative, quality of implementation and challenges faced, main outcomes, sustainability of the initiative, impacts) and how this information is being used to inform the initiative’s implementation. (200 words maximum)
Please describe how the initiative strives to work in an integrated manner within its institutional landscape – for example, how does the initiative work horizontally and/or vertically across different levels of government? (200 words maximum)
This initiative strives to work in an integrated manner within its institutional landscape it means an integrated approach has been using by combining horizontal and vertical integration. These include balancing social cohesion and economic competitiveness, bringing together all relevant departments to address the challenge.
This coordination needs to operate on both the horizontal and the vertical dimension. Horizontal integration is about organizing and coordinating the policy fields in this specific area and normally refers to all the actors operating at that level. Vertical integration is about bringing policies from different levels of government together for the people (target group) concerned. For this purpose the vertical dimension focuses on the relationship between the policies from the national level and with the local government departments, NGOs, Local Government institutions in this district. The final step is to the specific neighborhoods where the problems are being tackled.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development puts emphasis on collaboration, engagement, partnerships, and inclusion. Please describe which stakeholders were engaged in designing, implementing and evaluating the initiative and how this engagement took place. (200 words maximum)
Though Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development puts emphasis on collaboration , engagement, partnerships and inclusion so to make the initiative most effective and successful all the partners (NGOs and others) who have been working along with the District Administration have access to take part in decision making process, to create new ideas and to work actively.
Under 18 girls of the District, their guardians and the other stakeholders such as the Union councils, Municipalities, Marriage registrars, District Registrars, Religious leaders and different secondary and higher secondary level schools all of them has been engaging actively and they helped their level best to inform the District Administration and other law enforcing authorities about child marriage related issues. A huge publicity campaigns were done through seminars, rallies, workshops, leaflets, meetings, cultural programs, road drama and other activities to make them aware of this project and they realized the necessity of this project to stop this menace and active involvement of them has been ensured. All the stakeholders have beenhelping by informing the local Administration and law enforcement agencies and that has been making this project successful.
Please describe the key lessons learned, and how your organization plans to improve the initiative. (200 words maximum)
This Project which is an inclusive and integrated faster rout to combat child marriage has given a number of lessons to the GO/NGOs and other stakeholders as well. This project has made everyone understand that if collective effort is made to address any challenging issue, it’s possible to do it successfully. Innovative idea, Positive thinking and engagement of all walks of people can solve social problem with limited resources. It has also proved that effective innovation is welcomed by a democratic welfare state like Bangladesh. It showed the uses of ICT and modern technologies in innovative ways to solve different types of socio-economic problems to achieve the goals of SDGs.