Speakers and participants of a youth dialogue on adolescents reproductive health at Prothom Alo office in Karwan Bazar on 24 September, 2023
Prothom Alo

The more the reproductive health of the adolescents will be discussed, the more the taboos centering this will be cleared up. Speakers participating in a youth dialogue emphasised raising awareness on this issue not only among the adolescents and youths but also among the teachers, parents and policy makers.

During Sunday’s dialogue, speakers also said that young people have to be given the opportunity to acquire the right information about reproductive health from their adolescence.

With the support of ‘USAID Shukhi Jibon Project’, Pathfinder International and Prothom Alo jointly organised the youth dialogue at Prothom Alo office in capital’s Karwan Bazar. Prothom Alo Bondhushava supported with overall management of the youth dialogue titled, ‘Adolescent and Youth-Friendly Reproductive Health Services’.

It was stated at the event that adolescents form a habit of hiding the signs of physical changes during puberty and menstruation because their parents at home and teachers at schools do not want to teach them anything on this topic.

Adolescent and youth specialist of USAID Shukhi Jibon Project, Fatema Shabnam presented information about adolescent health services during the discussion.

Only 32 per cent of young girls and 21 per cent of young boys, who are unmarried, visits the government healthcare centres seeking services. Meanwhile, as much as 61 per cent of the married young girls depend on pharmacies to adopt family planning methods.

Showing data from 2009 she said that only 32 per cent of young girls and 21 per cent of young boys, who are unmarried, visits the government healthcare centres seeking services. As much as 61 per cent of the married young girls depend on pharmacies to adopt family planning methods.

Citing data of providing school, healthcare, digital and community-based services under USAID Shukhi Jibon project, he said that more than 8 million people have seen information linked to reproductive health on their platform.

During the youth dialogue, deputy director at the directorate general of family planning Zakia Akhter said that there isn’t sufficient data on adolescent reproductive health services at parent, teacher or even expert levels.

In order to raise awareness, information must be spread to every single level. Policy makers also have to be sensitive in this regard, she added.

Director of USAID Shukhi Jibon Project and country director of Pathfinder International, Md Mahbub ul Alam said that Bangladesh is now in favour of demographic dividend (work-age population surpasses dependent population).

When there is majority of young population, there’s a possibility of socio-economic development. Coordinated efforts are required to stop child marriage, early pregnancy and maternal mortality risk, he added.

Project management specialist at USAID office of Population, Health and Nutrition, Israt Nayer said that a multilayered and concerted initiative is required for raising awareness about reproductive health.

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Government and non-government organisations have to work together in this matter. Findings of the projects have to be taken forward through different steps even after the project period is over, she added.

Prothom Alo managing editor and Kishor Alo editor Anisul Hoque said, the more there will be discussions about reproductive health, the more taboos will be broken.

Everything’s being included in the textbook to clutter it with advice and guidelines. Now separate platforms have to be used to spread accurate information, he added.

Director of Ipas in Bangladesh, Sayed Rubayet said that working without identifying the origin of the problem wouldn’t resolve the issue.

Health specialist at UNICEF Bangladesh, Riad Mahmud commented that adolescent health services plan needs to be prepared according to the requirements of the adolescents after consulting them.

Mentioning that the matter of vaccination is being included with the reproductive health services, he said that young girls will be given cervical cancer vaccines free of cost from October.

Director of gender, justice and diversity (GJD) wing of BRAC, Nobonita Chowdhury said that many people can openly talk about menstruation now. But, reproductive health does not refer to menstruation only.

Being unable to discuss their physical transformation, young boys satisfy their curiosity by watching pornography. Learning about reproductive health from watching pornography sends a terrible message for the society, she added.

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Actress Sohana Saba said that many modern and educated parents also don’t discuss reproductive health with their children. Parents too need to be aware.

Former member of Bangladesh national cricket team, Shathira Jakir Jessy suggested taking an initiative of creating video content with celebrities from different fields and promoting them in schools to raise awareness.

Founder of Cyber Teens and winner of the International Children's Peace Prize, Sadat Rahman said that there have also been incidents of harassment online, linked to reproductive health.

To provide assistance regarding cybercrime his platform is launching 13219 (thirteen to nineteen) in October, he added.

A teacher of Playpen School and a musician, Jayita Talukder said that counselors need to be appointed in every school to pay more attention to adolescents’ mental health.

General secretary of Prothom Alo Bondhushava National Board of Directors, Zafar Sadiq said that raising awareness about reproductive health can be included in the regular activities of Bondhushava.

Founder and CEO of Ritu Sharmin Kabir, executive coordinator of YouthNet for Climate Justice Sohanur Rahman, Dhaka Metropolitan Bondhushava president Hasina Mostafiz, organising secretary Hasan Mahmud also spoke at the time.

Among others Sylhet Bondhushava members Sameer Chandra Baishnab, Deepannita Sen, Mymensingh Bondhushava president Subrata Kumar Singh, Chattogram Bondhushava members Mrittika Rakshit, Shihab Zishan and Kishor Alo volunteers Rafia Anjum and Mohammad Ullah Zafree were also present there.