Economic realities in Bangladesh, one of the world’s poorest countries, have pushed millions of children into work.
According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, there are around 7.4 million working children aged five-17. Some of the children are engaged in hazardous labour such as welding, battery recharging and auto workshops – which risk both their physical and mental development.
“It is hard to accept, but child labour is seen as inevitable for some families in this country. Children are working because their parents are poor. They are encouraged to work to support the family’s income.”
Dr Saydul Alom, Head of Health, Education and Child Welfare, Islamic Relief Bangladesh
With the backing of the Bangladeshi government, our pilot project – which began in 2013 – is helping 185 children who are engaged in hazardous labour in the Dhaka district. It will provide the children with options including access to formal and informal education or vocational training, as well as support to secure alternative means of generating an income.
Islamic Relief is also delivering a hard-hitting awareness campaign targeting families, employers, teachers, and the communities where hazardous child labour is a reality. It is delivering awareness messages on the negative impact of hazardous child labour and engaging in policy and grass-roots advocacy to campaign for its reduction.
It is hoped that in future the project will be replicated across other key areas of Bangladesh.
Jewel has escaped the dockyards
Jewel, 12, lives with his mother and three siblings in Keraniganj, in the remote Suvaddya Union. Jewel’s father died when he was just seven years-old, and his mother could not earn enough money as a domestic help, to keep Jewel at school.
To help his family, Jewel started work at a local dockyard. It was exhausting, dangerous work. He had been working there for one year when he fell from the ship he was helping to weld. Jewel’s right hand was broken.
Jewel joined the Islamic Relief project, and his family is now provided with a small, regular stipend so he no longer has to work. Instead, he is able to receive the education that he needs to access a brighter future.
Sumaiya does not need to make plastic bags anymore
Sumaiya, 11, lives in the overcrowded village of Purbabanda Dackpara, in the Dhaka district. Her father – a rickshaw driver – died of a heart attack when she was only six-months old, and now Sumaiya lives with her uncle’s family.
She was producing plastic bags to earn a small amount of money. Starting early in the day, and often working into the night – sometimes she was too busy to eat.
Sumaiya’s mother is very happy that she has now joined the new Islamic Relief project: “If Islamic Relief reduces child labour and helps children doing hazardous work, then the children can continue their education. In future, they could become good citizens of Bangladesh.”
Now, Sumaiya is looking forward to her new future. “I want to be a teacher, to serve poor children like me,” she said.