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Bangladesh

Our research: In Bangladesh, which is located on floodplains east of India, we are following 1,900 Bangladeshi adolescent girls and boys in rural Chittagong and urban Dhaka. We are also following 1,800 Rohingya refugee adolescents in Cox’s Bazar. Our research includes the adolescents themselves, their siblings, caregivers, teachers and other community members.

The context: Population growth has slowed, but approximately one in five Bangladeshi citizens are adolescents between the ages of 10 and 19. Moreover, although Bangladesh is on track to graduate to a middle-income country by 2024, one in four people live below the poverty line, making it one of five countries accounting for the world’s largest absolute numbers of people living in poverty.

Education and learning: Bangladesh has invested heavily in girls’ education over the last several decades. Girls are more likely to enrol in both primary and secondary school than boys – but boys remain more likely to complete secondary school than girls.1 Boys are also over-represented in both technical/vocational and higher education and have better access to information and technology.2 Poverty is a significant driver of school leaving for both girls and boys, but girls’ access to education is strongly shaped by social norms. Many fall behind in secondary school because they do not have time for homework (owing to household chores assigned to girls and not boys) or are less likely to have access to after-school tutoring (owing to parents’ preferences for spending money on their sons’ education).3 Others are removed from school as a result of marriage.4

Bodily autonomy, integrity and freedom from violence: Despite significant recent progress in reducing child marriage, most Bangladeshi girls marry as children. Three-fifths marry by age 18 and one in eight marries before 15.5 Of married adolescent girls, more than one-third experience physical violence – and one-quarter experience sexual violence – at the hands of the husbands.6 In addition, nearly 90% of teenage girls experience sexual harassment in their communities.7

Health, nutrition, and sexual and reproductive health: Due to child marriage and a continued preference for early childbearing, adolescent pregnancy is common in Bangladesh – three-fifths of girls have begun childbearing by the age of 19.8 Young mothers are unlikely to receive skilled delivery or postnatal care.9 Malnutrition remains common among Bangladeshi girls, which is especially problematic given their pregnancy rates. Data from the 2014 DHS shows that 31% of married girls aged 15–19 are undernourished.10

Psychosocial well-being: There is very little evidence about adolescent girls’ broader psychosocial well-being. Research has found that girls – especially urban girls – are at risk of poor mental health, due to their social isolation, sexual harassment, abuse and child marriage.11

Voice and agency: While there have been recent shifts towards more gender-equitable attitudes and norms, especially amongst younger people, adolescent girls’ voice and agency are tightly restricted by conservative social norms that see their roles largely confined to marriage and motherhood. This is reflected by the Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI), in which Bangladesh has the worst overall score among seven South Asian countries included.12 Whereas boys are allowed increasing freedom as they grow up, the restrictions on girls’ lives increase during adolescence, as parents try to protect their daughters from sexual harassment and violence, and preserve family ‘honour’.13

Economic empowerment: An estimated 1 million children between the ages of 10 and 14 work,14 with only 31% of child labourers combining work with school.15 The highest percentage of young adolescent girl workers is found in Dhaka, followed by Chittagong and Sylhet; however, exact numbers are unknown.17 18 In addition, girls under the age of 15 are comparatively invisible outside of educational statistics, and even older adolescents are often considered only in the broader category of married women.

Related publications

Policy briefs and policy notes
01.04.20
‘How will my life be?’: psychosocial well-being among Rohingya and Bangladeshi adolescents in Cox’s Bazar
Psychosocial well-being
Bangladesh
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01.04.20 | Psychosocial well-being | Policy briefs and policy notes | Bangladesh
‘How will my life be?’: psychosocial well-being among Rohingya and Bangladeshi adolescents in Cox’s Bazar
Read more
Policy briefs and policy notes
01.04.20
‘I don’t have any aspiration because I couldn’t study’: exploring the educational barriers facing adolescents in Cox’s Bazar
Education and learning
Bangladesh
Read more
01.04.20 | Education and learning | Policy briefs and policy notes | Bangladesh
‘I don’t have any aspiration because I couldn’t study’: exploring the educational barriers facing adolescents in Cox’s Bazar
Read more
Policy briefs and policy notes
01.04.20
Age- and gender-based violence risks facing Rohingya and Bangladeshi adolescents in Cox’s Bazar
Bodily integrity and freedom from violence
Bangladesh
Read more
01.04.20 | Bodily integrity and freedom from violence | Policy briefs and policy notes | Bangladesh
Age- and gender-based violence risks facing Rohingya and Bangladeshi adolescents in Cox’s Bazar
Read more
Method tools and guides
30.01.20
Bangladesh baseline survey 2017/18
Bangladesh
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30.01.20 | Method tools and guides | Bangladesh
Bangladesh baseline survey 2017/18
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Policy briefs and policy notes
16.12.19
The impact of large-scale forced displacement on Rohingya refugees and host communities in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh
Bangladesh
Read more
16.12.19 | Policy briefs and policy notes | Bangladesh
The impact of large-scale forced displacement on Rohingya refugees and host communities in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh
Read more
Policy briefs and policy notes
05.12.19
Adolescent psychosocial well-being and voice and agency in Chittagong, Bangladesh
Psychosocial well-being
Bangladesh
Read more
05.12.19 | Psychosocial well-being | Policy briefs and policy notes | Bangladesh
Adolescent psychosocial well-being and voice and agency in Chittagong, Bangladesh
Read more
Policy briefs and policy notes
05.12.19
Adolescent health, nutrition, and sexual and reproductive health in Chittagong, Bangladesh
Sexual reproductive health and nutrition
Bangladesh
Read more
05.12.19 | Sexual reproductive health and nutrition | Policy briefs and policy notes | Bangladesh
Adolescent health, nutrition, and sexual and reproductive health in Chittagong, Bangladesh
Read more
Policy briefs and policy notes
05.12.19
Adolescent bodily integrity and freedom from violence in Chittagong, Bangladesh
Bodily integrity and freedom from violence
Bangladesh
Read more
05.12.19 | Bodily integrity and freedom from violence | Policy briefs and policy notes | Bangladesh
Adolescent bodily integrity and freedom from violence in Chittagong, Bangladesh
Read more
Policy briefs and policy notes
05.12.19
Adolescent economic empowerment in Chittagong, Bangladesh
Economic empowerment
Bangladesh
Read more
05.12.19 | Economic empowerment | Policy briefs and policy notes | Bangladesh
Adolescent economic empowerment in Chittagong, Bangladesh
Read more
Policy briefs and policy notes
05.12.19
Adolescent education and learning in Chittagong, Bangladesh
Education and learning
Bangladesh
Read more
05.12.19 | Education and learning | Policy briefs and policy notes | Bangladesh
Adolescent education and learning in Chittagong, Bangladesh
Read more
Policy briefs and policy notes
01.12.19
The lives they lead: exploring the capabilities of Bangladeshi and Rohingya adolescents in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh
Bodily integrity and freedom from violence
Bangladesh
Read more
01.12.19 | Bodily integrity and freedom from violence | Policy briefs and policy notes | Bangladesh
The lives they lead: exploring the capabilities of Bangladeshi and Rohingya adolescents in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh
Read more
Journal articles
22.11.19
Do restrictive gender attitudes and norms influence physical and mental health during very young adolescence? Evidence from Bangladesh and Ethiopia
Psychosocial well-being
Bangladesh | Ethiopia
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22.11.19 | Psychosocial well-being | Journal articles | Bangladesh
Do restrictive gender attitudes and norms influence physical and mental health during very young adolescence? Evidence from Bangladesh and Ethiopia
Read more
Policy briefs and policy notes
05.07.19
Adolescent bodily integrity and freedom from violence in Dhaka, Bangladesh
Bodily integrity and freedom from violence
Bangladesh
Read more
05.07.19 | Bodily integrity and freedom from violence | Policy briefs and policy notes | Bangladesh
Adolescent bodily integrity and freedom from violence in Dhaka, Bangladesh
Read more
Policy briefs and policy notes
05.07.19
Adolescent psychosocial well-being and voice and agency in Dhaka, Bangladesh
Psychosocial well-being
Bangladesh
Read more
05.07.19 | Psychosocial well-being | Policy briefs and policy notes | Bangladesh
Adolescent psychosocial well-being and voice and agency in Dhaka, Bangladesh
Read more
Policy briefs and policy notes
05.07.19
Adolescent economic empowerment in Dhaka, Bangladesh
Economic empowerment
Bangladesh
Read more
05.07.19 | Economic empowerment | Policy briefs and policy notes | Bangladesh
Adolescent economic empowerment in Dhaka, Bangladesh
Read more
Policy briefs and policy notes
05.07.19
Adolescent health, nutrition and sexual and reproductive health in Dhaka, Bangladesh
Sexual reproductive health and nutrition
Bangladesh
Read more
05.07.19 | Sexual reproductive health and nutrition | Policy briefs and policy notes | Bangladesh
Adolescent health, nutrition and sexual and reproductive health in Dhaka, Bangladesh
Read more
Policy briefs and policy notes
05.07.19
Adolescent education and learning in Dhaka, Bangladesh
Education and learning
Bangladesh
Read more
05.07.19 | Education and learning | Policy briefs and policy notes | Bangladesh
Adolescent education and learning in Dhaka, Bangladesh
Read more
Policy briefs and policy notes
10.12.18
Policy and legal analysis notes: a review of the National Strategy for Adolescent Health in Bangladesh
Bodily integrity and freedom from violence
Bangladesh
Read more
10.12.18 | Bodily integrity and freedom from violence | Policy briefs and policy notes | Bangladesh
Policy and legal analysis notes: a review of the National Strategy for Adolescent Health in Bangladesh
Read more
Policy briefs and policy notes
24.07.18
Adolescents with disabilities: enhancing resilience and delivering inclusive development
Bodily integrity and freedom from violence
Bangladesh | Ethiopia
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24.07.18 | Bodily integrity and freedom from violence | Policy briefs and policy notes | Bangladesh
Adolescents with disabilities: enhancing resilience and delivering inclusive development
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Evidence reviews and evidence digests
22.12.17
Adolescent girls' capabilities in Bangladesh: A synopsis of the evidence
Bodily integrity and freedom from violence
Bangladesh
Read more
22.12.17 | Bodily integrity and freedom from violence | Evidence reviews and evidence digests | Bangladesh
Adolescent girls' capabilities in Bangladesh: A synopsis of the evidence
Read more
Evidence reviews and evidence digests
22.12.17
Adolescent girls' capabilities in Bangladesh: the state of the evidence on programme effectiveness
Bodily integrity and freedom from violence
Bangladesh
Read more
22.12.17 | Bodily integrity and freedom from violence | Evidence reviews and evidence digests | Bangladesh
Adolescent girls' capabilities in Bangladesh: the state of the evidence on programme effectiveness
Read more
Evidence reviews and evidence digests
22.12.17
Adolescent girls' capabilities in Bangladesh: the state of the evidence
Bodily integrity and freedom from violence
Bangladesh
Read more
22.12.17 | Bodily integrity and freedom from violence | Evidence reviews and evidence digests | Bangladesh
Adolescent girls' capabilities in Bangladesh: the state of the evidence
Read more
Reports
10.10.17
Exploring Bangladeshi adolescents' gendered experiences and perspectives
Bodily integrity and freedom from violence
Bangladesh
Read more
10.10.17 | Bodily integrity and freedom from violence | Reports | Bangladesh
Exploring Bangladeshi adolescents' gendered experiences and perspectives
Read more