Islamic Relief has welcomed a policy-initiative by the government of Bangladesh to improve protection for children engaged in domestic work.

At a discussion held through Islamic Relief’s project to stamp-out hazardous child labour in a country in which some 1.3 million children are affected, State Minister for Labour and Employment Mujibul Haque Chunnu said that the government would shortly consider a proposal to help protect the rights of children employed as domestic help.

Whilst most recent statistics record that there are almost 7.4 million working children in Bangladesh, to date, around 420,000 child domestic workers are excluded from the statistics on hazardous child labour. An event in July, supported by Islamic Relief, saw working children influencing Bangladeshi policy-makers to improve protection for youngsters employed in the domestic sector.

Improving child rights and eliminating child labour

The roundtable event, which was held in Dhaka early this month, was jointly organised by Islamic Relief and Bangladesh Shishu Adhikar (Child Rights) Forum. It was attended by government ministers and policy-makers, as well as journalists and other organisations working to improve rights for children.

During the session, government representatives outlined progress made toward boosting child rights and eliminating child labour – which is an economic reality for the poorest children – and called for the continued support of organisations such as Islamic Relief in formulating appropriate policies.

Challenges and recommendations

At an event in July, Nazma called for domestic work to be recognised as hazardous.

At an event in July, Nazma called for domestic work to be recognised as hazardous.

Participants discussed a range of challenges which need to be tackled, including the need for updated data, increased resources and infrastructure, improved coordination between civil society organisations and the government, as well as a national policy framework.

The set of recommendations coming out of the meeting emphasised the need for both preventative measures and cure policies, improving economic support for poor families, ensuring access to education for all, and mobilising action at local and national levels to promote widespread zero tolerance to child labour.

Shabel Firuz, Country Director of Islamic Relief Bangladesh, said: “Too many Bangladeshi children are forced to work to support themselves and their families. The outlook is particularly troubling for those engaged in hazardous labour, as their health and development is placed in jeopardy.

“We therefore welcome this positive step forward from the government, whilst recognising the need to continue to work together to tackle the issue.

“Amongst the measures required, we must reduce the demand for child labour and support poor families so they do not need to send their children to work. Widespread cultural change is necessary, so we as a society no longer accept child labour. There must be sanctions against those who employ child workers, as well as vigilant inspections to ensure the rights and welfare of working children.”

Islamic Relief continues to advocate for child rights and protection in Bangladesh, including through its innovative programme to eradicate hazardous child labour.