Bangladesh's child population (under 18), comprising 45% of the total population are virtually unnoticed. They are vast untapped wealth that could be turned into effective manpower. Born mostly of poor parents, the male children supplement the meager income of the parents, while most female children in urban areas work as domestic help.
A big number of them fall into the clutches of child traffickers and end up in red light areas in the country or outside.
Many child domestic help live and work in conditions that are oppressive, exploitative, abusive and worse than adults would accept for the same work. The poignant part is that as they belong to the informal labour sector, thus they are excluded from legal protection, which makes them even more vulnerable. Most horrifyingly, around 22 to 50% of the 2.5 million people forced into labour after being trafficked are children.
Source: Bangladesh Daily Star Net
According to a baseline survey (BBS and Unicef), other than 7.4 million working in the informal sector, as many as 400,000 children aged between 6-17 years, 80% of them female, work as domestic workers (CDW), and are almost invisible and inaccessible to government surveillance, NGO inspection and even to neighbours. In a report revealed by the Unicef recently, it was pointed out that the plight of the poor urban children is really horrific. They suffer much greater deprivation than those in the countryside.
Slum population has grown rapidly in the cities and towns as the landless poor migrate to these places, driven by poverty and natural disasters. With no money for proper accommodation, it is estimated that around one-third of the urban population in the six large cities now live in slums.
Most of the male children labour in factories and fields until their hands are gnarled and backs bent. Many of them wander homeless in the streets, surviving by begging and even thieving. Sleeping in railway stations or bus stands or on the footpaths, picking through garbage and sifting for food in the municipal dumps! They die every day of easily preventable diseases.
The conferences, meetings or seminars that are often convened by political parties in an effort to care for the vast population remain confined to taking agenda. Recommendations made to the policy makers in National Child Domestic Worker Convention about empowering children economically, as well as arresting exploitation, creating job opportunities for the parents in the rural areas and enacting laws to protect child workers from exploitation and abuse are fine on paper but implementation seems to be a far cry.
While there is widespread call for an end to forced child labour, some affluent and educated people have hit headlines because of their cruel treatment of these domestic help. In a report published in a Bangla daily, it was revealed that a domestic worker in the Sabujbagh area of the city died after being subjected to torture for days. Both the husband and wife were arrested by the police later.
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