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Girl Child Labor in Bangladesh

Chief Seattle said “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.” However, if we look at the present situation of the child labor of Bangladesh the only one thing will come into your mind is that this child are born to carry the burden of our ancestors.

Child labors become a big issue not only in Bangladesh, but also for many other countries of the world. However, for the developing countries like Bangladesh the problem of child labor is very sever. When the child labor is a girl, it exacerbates the situation. The misery of a girl child labor knows no bound. Though child labor is harmful for both boy and girl without any doubt, the situation is difficult for especially girl child labor.

This is a picture of a girl who is a child labor. To support her family, she works in a fish market named Fringe Bazaar in Chittagong, Bangladesh. She has to carry the heavy baskets of fish and get only 10 Taka per basket. She cannot carry more than 10 to 12 baskets per day, so at the end of the day she gets only 100 to 150 Taka which is less almost 1 or 2 dollars. Most of the time, she does not get any basket to carry as there are other boy child labors who get the first preference for working.

When I took this picture of her I was thinking about her future. When I saw at her, only the negative thought was coming in my mind that one day this innocent face will demolish because of the rude reality. We can give them only the pain to pale that innocent face. Life is so tough for the child labor especially if it is a girl. There are thousands of girls in Bangladesh like her. Although law against the child labor exists in the country, it’s not active or applied properly. Bangladesh is full of natural resources, but it is not developing because most of the time we forget the famous quote of Walt Disney that “Our greatest natural resource is the minds of our children."

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JaniceW's picture

Non-existent Childhood

I read a report that estimates that there are 4.9 million working children aged 5 to 15 in Bangladesh. Although there has been a movement to ban child labour, it seems that mechanisms are not in place to provide an alternative to breaking the cycle of poverty. Even for those earning as little as 20 to 40 Taka a day (US 30 to 60 cents) breaking bricks, this income contributes greatly towards the family's food and livelihood. With no acknowledgment of the needs of working children and their families, and no access to education, it seems that children have little choice but to enter the labour market for little or no pay, and sometimes in hazardous conditions.

The picture is certainly bleak for this young girl and many children living in the urban slums. We must join hands and raise our voices to advocate for educational, social and economic policies that favour working children and their families, and support the elimination of child labour, not just in Bangladesh but around the world. Thank you for reminding us that there is still much to do to provide young children in Bangladesh access to the basic human rights of education, protection and development.

Umme Mahbuba's picture

Hi Dear JaniceW, Thank you

Hi Dear JaniceW,

Thank you for your informative reply and you are really correct. At present, I am doing a project on child labor in Bangladesh and till now what I found that it is not possible (not easy!) to ban or remove child labor from this country as the harshly necessity of child labor in our country is unavoidable. You know, in Bangladesh cheap labor is one of the main assets for this country’s development and who else can be chipper than a child here! In most of the garments factories girl child labors work whole day and night, but in exchange they got a little amount of money, sexual harassment, and gain different kind of diseases. Also, there are many more heartbreaking stories. However, the problem is if a poor child does not work, his or her family members have to starve which exacerbate the situation and economic condition of that family, so for them the best way is to fulfill this first basic need and go for work, no matter what his or her age is and what type of work it is. They only know that they have a stomach and it needs food. Therefore, it will be hard to remove child labor from this county, but one thing that we can do in this situation is to fight for suitable works for these children by fulfilling their basic needs especially education.

Thank You,
Umme Mahbuba.

jadefrank's picture

girl child

Hi Umme,

Thank you for sharing the struggles and harsh realities of girl child laborers in Bangladesh. This reality is true is many parts of the world and is something that we can no longer afford to ignore. You mention in your profile that this is something you are very concerned with and passionate about finding solutions for. Are there currently any programs in your country that work to resolve the issue of child labor? Are there laws against it, that are not being enforced, or is there a needed for creating laws to protect children?

I hope that you will continue talking about this important issue in your journal.

In friendship,
Jade

Umme Mahbuba's picture

Hi Dear Jade, There are many

Hi Dear Jade,
There are many programs and researches are going on in Bangladesh about child labor, but most of them are not effective. Most of the time NGOs are doing projects and coming up with some new innovative ideas to solve the problem of child labor, but in practically they faced many problems. Moreover, the problems and the numbers of child labor are very huge. Therefore, without the help of government it is not possible to solve these problems only by NGOs. Although Bangladesh government makes primary education free, the children drop out from the school due to poverty. You know Bangladesh is a developing country and burdens with lot of problems, so we cannot blame the government all the time although child labor is a big problem and some time the government ignore or forget its harmful effect in the future. However, government can make the law against child labor effective by making it clear and specific. As in Bangladesh we have many laws against child labor, but most of them are not effective and vague such as the age limitations and acceptable age of child as a legal worker in industry and garments factory are not specific. Also, there is no specific law for he child labor who do house hold work as a domestic worker. Also, there are many other lacking are exist in the child labor laws in Bangladesh.
Now, I am teaching in a slum area's school which is under an NGO name UTSHA and there I found that we have lack of resources to teach a child properly and the curriculum is not suitable and effective for them. Also, family plays a vital role in there study that they continue it or not. Government should make a stick law about making primary and higher education mandatory besides providing suitable work opportunity for this children so that they can support their family too. Also, government and NGOs should make more schools for working children where they will teach the technical education or skill besides academic education.

jodelight's picture

child labor

Umme,

Thank you for this entry. Yes, child labor is is serious issue in many countries. I appreciate your perspectives on this issue, and your convictions to bring it to the global community. I believe that in order to make positive changes for our future generations, we must find ways to end child labor. Not an easy task, as so many global issues are interconnected. But, we must search for ways to provide better life opportunities for our children. This is there world. Let's try to make it a better place for them and their children.

Interconnected,

Jody

Umme Mahbuba's picture

Good points

Hi Dear Jodelight,

I am happy that you bring up some points. I really love that. However, the problem is I also used to think like you and my aim was to stop child labor, and still I really want that form my heart. However, when you will go to field work or in a project in a developing country like Bangladesh, you will feel it is not easy( I am not meaning that it is impossible). Therefore, just shouting and thinking about to stop child labor is not a perfect and practical solution. I want a practical solution like giving suitable jobs along with education to the child labor. As, in Bangladesh if you tell a child labor to stop work and go to the school, definitely he/ she will not go, because, the education and good advise will not work when you are in empty stomach. Also, what I believe is that, if we are able to give suitable jobs for child labor and proper education in the future they will protect their children to become a child labor as they will know the right of their children and the pain of being a child labor. Than finally, we can stop child labor. We have to keep in mind we can not change out society and economical condition at a sudden, we have to go step by step and think of a practical solution.
I invite you to come and visit Bangladesh. You can come to do an internship in NGOs in Bangladesh. I would love to here some more thoughts and questions from you.

Thank You,
Umme Mahbuba.

jodelight's picture

complex issue

Umme dear,

I completely agree with you. This issue is much more complex than just shouting and saying let's stop child labor. I think there is no simple solution.
I was working in Cambodia last year, and child labor is a huge, complex issue there as well. Children work to provide income for their families, often times, instead of going to school. Some children would work and try to go to school. These young ones are faced with a truly difficult life already, and so young. It is difficult to explain to parents at times, that education is so important, when a family needs food on their tables today.
Child labor issues are complex, and interconnected with so many other issues. Education, social structures, and family ties, to name a few. Right off, I can't offer any simple solutions, because this is not a simple problem. However, I know that many organizations worldwide are looking for ways to address this issue. In Cambodia, I was teaching children. Most were working during the day, and coming to classes in the evenings.
My hope is that these children are able to study and have opportunities for a better life. That's what I wish for my students, and that's what I wish for every child who is currently laboring.
As far as coming to Bangladesh, I would love to come one day. Yes, indeed. Thank you for your powerful voice on PulseWire. You are fierce and driven. I feel it in your words!

Keep it up!
Jody

Starland's picture

born to work

Hi Umme

I, too, believe that a major part of the chld labor problem is education. I know in some parts of the world where the parents are paid to send their child to school, the child labor factor decreased. On the other hand, greed and Power Over always comes with a demand: the weaker must succomb to the more powerful. How do we go about changing the mindsets that say children are acceptable workers to be underpaid? How can we empower the parents to provide for the chilren instead of the children providing for the parents? I support you fully in your work. If there is anything at all I can do to help you, please let me know.

K-lee 3709

K-lee Starland, Ph.D.

Hi Starland,
Thanks for you amazing reply. In Bangladesh we also have the similar kind of activities like give full free scholarship, food, and money to the poor children so that they can give the money to their family. However, due to the corruption, problems in policy making, effective steps of government this does not work properly. Some child go to the school in the day when the school give them money or scholarship. School teachers and the authority could not reject them as if they do it and keep the money there will be a blame of false corruption; and the school and authorities are really afraid of them in some case. on the other hand it is sad to say that the teachers and the schools do corruptions as most of the teachers of these schools are poor and they get low payment.In addition, the parents of this poor children also play with the life of their children as money is everything for them. They admit their child in a school where the government of NGO give some money or scholarships, but later the parents do not let their children to go to school as they thought that going school is such a wasting of time and its better to do work in this time. So, there are many inter related issues makes this child labor issue complex in Bangladesh and due to that still it is one of the major problems in this country although government and many NGOs are trying to solve this problem.
Thanks for your valuable questions, I am going to include these questions in my research and of course I will ask for your help that I really need from you.

Thank you again,
Umme

Nusrat Ara's picture

It is so heart breaking to

It is so heart breaking to see children working. I think the lost childhood is the worst that can happen to a child.

Nusrat

Kim Crane's picture

A problem that will haunt us...

... if we can't figure out alternatives. That's a really haunting photo you included with your story, but the girl in the photo doesn't just look like a victim. She appears to be challenging us with her eyes. I sincerely hope we can take on her challenge. I love your comparison to our children as our natural resources. Unfortunately this comparison doesn't offer much hope--look what we do to our natural resources! The end goal in this struggle is obvious: we need to create world that preserves and reveres childhood. The steps to get there are harder to figure out. How do we change the mindset of an entire society to value the resources we depend on? How many people must be convinced of the worth investing in and educating our children--all of them--before this becomes the status quo? and what immediate needs must to be met before the world's struggling parents can let their dreams loose for their children? We can't blame parents who are put in the position of making impossible choices, no matter how cruel those choices may seem. I think child labor is such a tricky issue precisely because it is connected to so many other issues, like global economics and the power relations within societies. I agree with the above comments that child labor won't be an easy problem to solve. What a blessing that we have inspiring women like you, Umme, working on it! Thank you for bringing these issues to light and for sharing your insights! I hope this conversation continues on PulseWire and in the wider world!

Umme Mahbuba's picture

Thanks

Hi Kim,
Thank you for your informative comment. I did not wanted to give any photo of victim as for me it is like showing the helplessness and weakness of women. I love the picture of this child labor, whose story I wrote here, as this photo remind me her courageous face, expression and voice. I should write more about the child labor in Bangladesh in the journal from my research, but I am not getting time for my my other works and university assignments. Till then you can see my blogs and websites.

Thanks again,
Umme Mahbuba.

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