Growing Up Safe and Healthy (SAFE): Addressing Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights and Violence against Women and Girls in Urban Bangladesh
Growing Up Safe and Healthy (SAFE) is testing out an intervention for promoting sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), and reducing violence against women and girls (VAWG) in Dhaka slums, Bangladesh. It seeks in particular to foreground women’s and girls’ rights to choice and consent with regard to marriage, sex and childbearing. It seeks to provide context-specific strategies to build social and health assets for vulnerable adolescent girls and young women, with the eventual goal of improving their lifelong functional capabilities and well-being. The SAFE project, being implemented by a consortium of five partners-BLAST, Marie Stopes Bangladesh, Nari Maitree (We Can campaign), Population Council and icddr,b and supported by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (EKN).
Bangladesh, in the last three decades following its independence has experienced rapid urbanization, with Dhaka city experiencing growth at the rate of over 5% per annum, the highest in the world. Dhaka’s rapid urbanization has also been characterized by abject poverty in its many slums, which unlike in other settings are dispersed haphazardly in the city. Urban poverty in the Dhaka slums has thus added a new dynamic dimension to poverty in Bangladesh. Slum dwellers comprise distressed migrants from rural areas, with poverty-driven urbanization resulting from unsustainable rural economies. A significant proportion of these migrants are women, who face added vulnerabilities beyond the expected poverty led stresses of the urban slums of Dhaka. These highly mobile migrant women and girls living in urban slums lack even rudimentary social protections resulting from the lack of social cohesion and social safety nets and are at high risk of child marriage and gender based violence. Yet most women’s empowerment programs remain focused on rural areas. SAFE focus on the urban slums of Dhaka city which is a critical area of intervention in order to ensure rights for adolescent girls and women living in challenging circumstances and to provide important insights, learning and guidance on future directions on how to reach this vulnerable at risk group.