UN Women and the Bangladeshi National Women Lawyers Association (BNWLA) have initiated a project in four main universities to encourage students and teachers to challenge gender stereotypes and speak out against sexual harassment
UN Women and the Bangladeshi National Women Lawyers Association (BNWLA) have initiated a project in four main universities to encourage students and teachers to challenge gender stereotypes and speak out against sexual harassment.
The campaign, `Building Capacity to Prevent Violence Against Women Project’, is working to change behaviours and attitudes towards Bangladeshi women and girls.
It was established in October 2015 at Shahjalal University of Science and Technology in Sylhet, East West University in Jahangirnagar, University of Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, and the University of Rajshahiin Rajshahi, with financial and logistical support from the Embassy of Sweden.
As part of the project, it invites female students to speak to classmates about the sexual harassment, discrimination, and gender-based violence they have experienced and how it affects their confidence, self-esteem, opportunities and mobility.
Sexual Harassment Prevention Committees meet weekly or monthly to provide this safe space to share experiences and ideas on preventing harassment on campus.
These committees also manage telephone hotlines and offer other assistance, including procedures for investigations, referrals to university authorities and contact with law enforcement.
Students and university faculties have used the arts and sport to engage 20,000 people between 2015 and 2017, with the campaign now reaching leaders of student unions and their affiliated political parties.
UN Women has now begun the next stage of the programme and is working with university authorities to improve institutional responses to campus violence and harassment.
Safety audits have been completed, accountability mechanisms are being strengthened, and authorities will be trained in gender-responsive budgeting to allow for appropriate resources.
Gender discrimination affects Bangladeshi women in homes, schools and public areas across the country, with many men seeing harassment as harmless fun, or gender inequality as a societal norm.
This results in women receiving fewer opportunities and respect than their male counterparts, from getting less food to receiving a poorer education.
A survey in 2013 conducted by UN Women showed that 765 female students experienced sexual harassment on a university campus that year.
Mahatabul Hakim, UN Women Programme Analyst in Bangladesh, said: “Changing the culture starts with the young.
“We started this project because there was an urgent need for an intervention.
“The project targeted male and female students, so that together they can create a new normal by refusing to accept sexual harassment against women.”
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