Urban Adolescents needs assessment survey

The Urban Adolescents Needs Assessment Survey was designed to provide general information on urban adolescents and specific recommendations for those designing programs and policies for adolescents living in urban areas. The survey was conducted in six thanas located in Dhaka North, Dhaka South, and Gazipur district near Dhaka city from April to May 2014. Participants included adolescent girls and boys ages 12–19 sampled from, and interviewed in, their homes. The total sample size is 3,585 successfully completed interviews and includes married and unmarried adolescents. Background data on asset ownership and family characteristics collected from adolescents and household informants suggest that Dhaka North is the wealthiest district and Gazipur is the least wealthy in terms of asset ownership and occupational status. Overall, this urban population is more predominantly Muslim than the population of the country as a whole. Family size as measured by average number of siblings is 2.23, with Gazipur having a slightly higher average family size of 2.43. Ninety-two percent of adolescents have living fathers and mothers. Almost all households have electricity. Eighty-seven percent own televisions and 96% own mobile phones. Relatively high proportions own their own homestead land (84%) and a little under half own arable land as well. The parents of almost a third of all adolescents have no education, and these rates are similar for fathers and mothers. However, 28% of fathers have 10 years of education or more (Secondary School Certificate and above), while 17% of mothers are reported in this category. The areas vary in terms of fathers’ occupational distribution—33% are professional in Dhaka North, compared with 20% in Dhaka South and 17 percent in Gazipur. More than 85% of mothers are reported to be housewives.  The survey documents what many recent studies have found—that education levels are rising in urban Bangladesh, and as a result adolescents are more educated than their parents. The percentage of adolescents who have never been to school in this sample is less than 4%. Some sex differences in school attainment and performance are observed. Girls who are in school have slightly higher levels of schooling than boys, but girls tend to drop out after puberty resulting in their attaining lower overall levels of schooling. Only about 5% of adolescents report receiving governmental stipend support. This is because programs to provide such support typically do not cover urban areas. The majority of adolescents (80%) who are in school are tutored at home by private tutors, and more than half pay Tk1,000 (US$13) per month or more. Assessments of learning suggest that the quality of schooling is poor, particularly for mathematics. Most adolescents are able to read well in Bangla, their native language. English language competency is better in urban than rural areas.  Assessments of learning competencies on a range of indicators suggest that sex differences and age-related differences are small. However, there are considerable differences by level of schooling completed and by whether adolescents are currently in or out of school, the latter suggesting that adolescents who are no longer in school may lose some of the competencies they attained while in school.  Early marriage among urban adolescent girls is high and comparable to early marriage rates in rural areas. Nearly 20% of girls ages 12–19 are married, compared with 1% of boys. About one in four marriages is described as “own choice” and the remaining are arranged. The reason most often given for marriage is that a proposal is “too good to refuse.” Marriage registration is common, with 94% of married adolescents reporting that their marriage was registered. However, reports of dowry payment were surprisingly low. Responses to questions about sexual and reproductive health knowledge and practice suggest that knowledge levels are poor for unmarried adolescents and boys. Although HIV/AIDS is relatively uncommon in the country, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are not; knowledge about HIV/AIDS is much higher than knowledge about other forms of sexually transmitted diseases. Family planning knowledge and contraceptive use is high among married adolescents, with 62% of married adolescents reporting use of a method. The pill is the most commonly used method for girls and condom use is most common for boys. Girls are much more likely than boys to be sexually active at a young age because of early marriage. 


Boys and girls face restrictions on their mobility, and girls are more restricted than boys. Boys and girls express gender inequitable values on a range of indicators, but boys hold more inequitable values than girls. Women’s seclusion in the form of purdah practice is condoned by both boys and girls. Although respondents generally express equitable values when it comes to general principles such as the right to equality or education, more gender inequitable values emerge when asked about role expectations, with adolescents overwhelmingly endorsing views that women should be primarily responsible for domestic chores and that violence against women is acceptable under certain conditions.  The survey includes an assessment of mental health using the the 21-point Beck Depression Inventory that highlights poor mental health as an important area of concern. The analysis finds elevated levels of risk of  moderate to severe depression associated with orphanhood, past experience of violence, poor school performance, and traumatic experiences in childhood. More striking is the higher levels of depression associated with pregnancy and childbearing among girls relative to girls who have not yet experienced those lifecycle transitions. A question on what counseling topics would be of most interest suggests that professional help to reduce career- and education-related stress is an important area for unmarried adolescents, while SRHR and relationship concerns are important for married adolescents.  Overall, about a third of all adolescents work, but boys are more likely to work than girls. Urban adolescent girls are more likely to work than rural girls, and nearly one in four adolescent girls are engaged in incomeearning activities. Boys and girls work in different occupations. While the service sector is the dominant sector of employment for boys, garment factories are the dominant place of work for adolescent girls. Girls who are in school earn by tutoring children.   Girls work an average of 40 hours and boys work an average of 50 hours per week. Boys earn 50% more than girls. Although labor force participation is highest among the least educated, returns from education are high and even adolescents with incomplete primary education earn more per hour than adolescents with no education. However, adolescents with no education work long hours and their overall earnings are higher than adolescents with higher levels of education. Adolescent girls tend to hold their assets in the form of gold and silver, even among the most educated girls, suggesting that adolescents either do not have access to alternative ways of saving or they prefer to save in the form of gold or silver, which is the traditional form of asset holding particularly for women. In several aspects, the survey did not replicate results reported in other surveys. In particular, reported levels of experience of harassment and violence were much lower in this survey compared with past studies in urban and rural Bangladesh. Reports of sexual activity outside marriage and drug use were also low, as was the percentage of marriages reported to involve dowry. It may be possible that the survey underreported these behaviors, suggesting that it is important to offer higher levels of privacy and anonymity than what the current survey was able to provide.  There are some ways in which the survey did replicate results from other recently conducted studies. The results reported by the current study on measures of gender inequitable values and norms suggest that urban adolescents’ values are similar to those of rural adolescents. The majority held that girls should begin practicing purdah at a young age. Boys are somewhat more likely than girls to hold such values.

event name: 
Play Summit 2018
event location: 


BRAC Centre, Dhaka
BRAC Centre, Dhaka
BRAC Centre, Dhaka


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BRAC, in collaboration with ANJI Play China, and supporting partner Tung Wah College, will

Since its inception in 2004, BIED, as a pioneering educational institute, has strived to cater to the public sector as well as to the very vibrant and emerging private sector. Its focus on the diverse areas of courses, researches and other thematic areas make it indeed different and in some ways the only institute that offers these.
Dr. Erum Mariam
Director, BIED

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