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18 June, 2019 00:00 00 AM

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Children should not work in fields, but on dreams

Many employers prefer to engage children at work as children are easier to dominate
Bipasha Dutta
Children should not work in fields, 
but on dreams

“Children shouldn’t work in fields, but on dreams” was thetheme of World Day against Child Labour, 2019 (the day is celebrated on 12 June every year by ILO with all the major stakeholders to highlight the plight of child labourers and what can be done to help them) denotes a vital message that child labour spoil dreams and future potentialities of children. Currently, 152 million children are engaged in child labour across the world (ILO, 2019).

According to ILO (2019), “The term child labour is often defined as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development”. “Hazardous child labour is work in dangerous or unhealthy conditions that could result in a child being killed or injured/harmed (often permanently) and/or made ill (often permanently) as a consequence of poor safety and health standards and working arrangements” (ILO, 2016). However, children can be engaged in decent employment which is not harmful to their physical or mental health at or after the age of 14 years.

Both push factors and pull factors contribute in promoting child labour. Push factors motivates the children and families to engage children in work. Pull factors encourage the employer to engage children in work. Extreme poverty, limited scope of employment, limited access to quality education, skill development institution and inadequate knowledge on the harmful consequences of child labouroften push the families and children to promote child labour.

Similarly, many employers prefer to engage children at work as children are easier to dominate. Moreover, children can be engaged in work for longer hours with cheaper wages as children have less bargaining capacity. On top of that, inadequate enforcement of relevant laws and allowing exemption in the laws often promote child labour. For instance, the National Child Labour Elimination Policy 2010 of Bangladesh specifies a minimum age for work but did not set any regulations on domestic work or agricultural work.

There are legal protections in Bangladesh like ‘The Labour Act 2013’, ‘The National Child Labour Elimination Policy 2010 and Domestic Worker Protection & Welfare Policy 2015. Also, Bangladesh adopted the ILO’s Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182)  in 2001. In spite of having all these initiative, 3.2 million children are economically active where 1.28 million children are engaged in hazardous employment (BBS, 2013). In a nation-wide survey conducted by World Vision Bangladesh (WVB, 2018), 15 % of children were reported to be child laborers.

Consequently, exacerbating child labour condition will have a detrimental effect at the individual level that will have harmful impact at the national level.On one hand, child labour violets the basic needs and rights of the children by degrading the morality and physical wellbeing. On the other hand, vulnerability to abuse and exploitation of the children increases along with growing inferior complexity and hurting self-esteem by social stigma for being engaged in child labour. The distorted workforce may risk to thwart the economic growth in addition to social cohesion and political stability.

Collaborated initiative at different levels are required to reduce child labour. Research shows that children found in child labour should be supported by offering vocational training (for children aged 14 year or more), organizing income generating activities for their parents and providing transitional schools for children who fell behind their peer groups (ILO, 2016).

In such a backdrop, World Vision Bangladesh (WVB) targeted88,853 children (engaged in labour in garment sectors, transport sector, ship breaking sector, fishing, domestic work,construction and street work as well as garbage picking) in Bangladesh to bring them back from hazardous labour (from 2009).

Aligning with the government’s approach of “Child Sensitive Social Protection in building the child protection system” and developing partnership, collaboration and conducting advocacy, WVB promoted community support mechanisms for the protection of working children. Under these approaches the major interventions were diversification of income of the targeted households; provision of non-formal education classes; referral to school of drop-outs; ensuring health care services and shelter and raising of awareness.

Consequently, around 70,000 children either returned to school (aged below 14 years) or continued decent jobs (aged over 14 year or above). At the same time, their families were benefitted by vocational training and being engaged in income generating activities (WVB, 2019).

Shahin Ali (14 years old) was engaged in hazardous job as day labour by loading heavy materials from one truck to another. After receiving two months training on refrigerator fixing technician, he returned to school and started to work in a workshop and earned Taka 400.00 (approximately $ 4.7) per day in addition to his school time. He said, “When I was given the chance to go school, I realized what it really meant to work hard and achieve something. I saw the difference between life on the working station and life in school”.

However, the initiatives to reduce child labour had to undergo several challenges like frequent movement of children and their parents for survival and protection (in urban areas); working with orphan children and floating children engaged in labour (who come to the city very early and back to village in the evening). Besides, curriculum for non-formal education was not universal considering different levels (schooling) of children.

Considering the deep rooted phenomena that contribute in promoting child labour in Bangladesh; adequate budget should be allocated to eliminate 1.28 million child labor from hazardous work by 2025. Simultaneously, local government bodies should be more activeto eliminate hazardous child labor; monitoring mechanism should be strengthened; and domestic work for children should be specified as hazardous work.

The writer works for The World

Vision, Bangladesh

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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