Violence against women and girls has been on the rise throughout the COVID-19 pandemic – including in Bangladesh. Disturbingly, Nijera Kori, Inter Pares’ long-term counterpart, reports that incidents of intimate partner violence have greatly increased since the beginning of the pandemic. Instead of responding with dismay, Nijera Kori and the members of the landless groups they support, are responding with action—they are speaking out in protest and taking action to stop the violence.
With support from Inter Pares’ Building Momentum for Sexual and Reproductive Health program, Nijera Kori is mobilizing young people in the villages to safely protest this increase in violence. Youth are painting graffiti messages to let the public know they are aware and they are outraged. They are painting on schools, markets, local government offices, hospitals and clinics, bus stands – any public location where their message would be seen by large numbers of people. Their design of choice: a raised fist combined with the message “We won't put up with the oppression of women”. This graffiti campaign began as part of the international campaign 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. So far, youth have painted up to 300 stenciled graffities in villages throughout the working area of Nijera Kori.
As pandemic restrictions begin to be lifted, youth are expanding their efforts to push back against sexual and gender-based violence. They are now developing street theatre dramas which will soon be performed. They are also forming committees to monitor villages for cases of child marriage, and will be prepared to denounce them. In an increasingly repressive context, the actions of youth in Bangladesh are inspiring. We look forward to continuing to support their important activism to end gender-based violence.
Inter Pares acknowledges Global Affairs Canada for their financial support for the Building Momentum for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights program.