Working children in Bangladesh have had their say about government policy, in an event supported by Islamic Relief.

With financial support from Islamic Relief, Bangladesh Shishu Adhikar (Child Rights) Forum held an event that brought policy-makers together to listen to the views of working children. Participants in the ground-breaking session, which was held in Dhaka in June, included influential government officials.

The event was designed to develop a way forward to eliminate child labour – a reality for around 7.4 million children in poverty-stricken Bangladesh – from the country, and also to push for domestic child labour to be recognised as a hazardous job for children.

Policy-makers and Islamic Relief's Shabel Firuz listen to the views of working children

Policy-makers and Islamic Relief’s Shabel Firuz listen to the views of working children

Nazma wants domestic work to be recognised as hazardous

Nazma* shared how her job as a domestic worker means working from dawn to midnight – as well as undertaking hazardous tasks such as ironing, boiling water and cooking. With no time for leisure or play, Nazma asked the government to include domestic work on the hazardous job list and to make sure the list was properly enforced.

Sajib and Sakil want support for poor families

Sajib, a handloom worker, is now studying at school and asked how the government plans to increase his family income so he can continue his studies. Sakil works in an engine workshop, earning just 500 taka (GBP £3.76) per month, with his employer deducting money from his wages for any mistakes. There are no safety measures in his workplace, and he is not allowed annual leave. He wants to study and have a normal life, and he called on the government to support poor families so their children do not need to work.

“Over seven million children are employed in Bangladesh – and more than one million of these are doing hazardous work,” said Shabel Firuz, Country Director of Islamic Relief Bangladesh, in a speech at the event.

“A systematic approach to address the child labour issue is essential,” he added, underlining that the issue needs to be mainstreamed across the board in Bangladesh, with a national child welfare council and increased support services for vulnerable children facing abuse.

Major recommendations arising from the event include:

  • A holistic approach is needed to address child labour issues, with government departments and NGOs working together to adopt and deliver an integrated action plan
  • The culture of child labour must be considered in forming policy. Traditionally, Bangladeshi children engage in domestic production and agriculture – this can be a learning path and so must not be prohibited within safe parameters
  • Employers federations and trade unions to be engaged actively in any activities to reduce child labour, and provided with training on relevant policies and key issues.
  • The current hazardous job list must be updated, to include work such as child domestic labour, supported by a registration system and rigorous birth registration processes to prevent fake birth certificates being used to enable children to work
  • The main reason children drop-out of school is child labour – initiatives to boost school enrolment can help, as would efforts to remove incentives for parents that engage their children in hazardous work.

 In addition to advocacy on child labour issues, Islamic Relief is also delivering a project that is helping 185 children out of hazardous labour in Dhaka.

* Name changed for protection purposes.