|Ensuring child rights
By Md. Sazedul Islam
Wed, 24 Jan 2007, 08:55:00
Nasima was brought up at her grandmother’s house along with four sisters when her mother died when she was very young. Her father remarried. Due to physical torture and abuse by her stepmother, she ran away from the house and came to Dhaka where she started working as a domestic help in two houses. But she could not bear the heavy load of works. She came to street and survived by picking waste paper.
She met the staff of Aparajeyo Bangladesh (AB), a NGO, which has street children’s club at Arambag in the capital. She was enrolled in the center and showed interest in her education and became an active member of the center. Due to her self-motivation and personal development, she was transferred to AB’s girls’ hostel.
Nasima, 15, now student of Class VIII, is a talented dancer and orator. She completed a beautician course on April 2005 through the assistance of ARISE (Appropriate Resources Improving Street Children’s Environment) which is a joint project of Ministry of Social Welfare and UNDP taken for ensuring the welfare of street children.
Currently, Nasima is working part-time as a peer educator in AB’s HIV/AIDS prevention programme and received a monthly salary of Tk. 2,000. She wants to work in a beauty parlor to gain experiences and have her own beauty parlor in the future.
Aparajeyo Bangladesh is one of the partner NGOs engaged in implementing the ARISE project. The story of Nasima is not an isolated one; there are many other children who fall to troubles. Children are the hopes and future of a nation, because development of future civilization depends on them. If a child’s survival, development and protection are at take, then the development of a country at large is threatened.
Children are wealth of a state. When children are so important in the life of a nation, she/he can be neither ignored nor neglected in the onward march of world civilization. But unfortunately they become labour at an early age when they should be free from anxiety and food, clothing and education.
Children have equal status with adults, as members of human race and their survival, development and active participation are crucial to the progress of our society. Some times, children are beaten up, trafficked to another country, forced to take up risky works without salary, sexually harassed and sold after abduction. Sometimes, they are discriminated on gender or racial causes.
They have rights to be saved from this injustice. Child domestic service is widespread practice in urban areas. Child domestic workers come from extremely poor families, many have been abandoned or orphaned, or come from single parent families.
The National Child Labour Survey, 2002-03 by Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics conducted throughout the country, covered the child population aged 5-17 years living in the households. The estimated number of children in this age category is over 4.23 crore. According to National Child Labour Survey, of total child population in the 5-17 age group, 74.23 lakh were engaged in economic activity in 2002-03. Out of the working children, about 54,71,000 were boys and 19,52,000 girls.
The survey report said there are 40.67 lakh children who neither go to school and nor engage in any works. Working children were involved in 300 types of work and of these, 49 are injurious to their physical and mental welfare. Of the total working children in Bangladesh, 7.7 percent were engaged in hazardous works in Bangladesh.
According to ILO, children are employed in wide range of manufacturing process and the results namely lost childhood, foregone education and special susceptibility to the hazards of the work, are same for all. The children are the mainstays of a nation, keeping this mind; the government has taken up a number of activities that have direct bearing upon the children.
The Convention on the Rights of Child (CRC) is a powerful tool and framework to help protect the lives and promote the development of children around the world.
Bangladesh government, which is aware of the rights of its future citizen, ratified the CRC and participated at the World Summit for Children in September 1990 to launch the CRC. Hence, the observance of Child Rights Week from Sept 29 to Oct 5 is very significant in this regard.
The government committed to CRC is giving maintenance of law and order top priority and in 2000 passed ‘Supervision of Violence Against Women and Children Act’. The Social Welfare Ministry has been assigned with the key role of overseeing all activities relating to children. The Ministries of Women, Health and Family Planning, Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, Religious, LGRD, and Foreign have been brought together in the inter ministerial committee on the rights of children.
The Labour and Manpower Ministry is effectively enforcing the existing children’s Act which protect children from a number of exploitations and physical strains at work place. A labour law commission has been set up to modify the existing laws. Besides, government has taken up a scheme for the distressed children giving them training and education in 400 thanas of the country.
Bangladesh have enacted an important law protecting the interests of the children and their well being named ‘The Children Act-1974’. There are some other laws touching the interest and development of faculty of children named Bangladesh Boys Scout Act, Girls Guide Act and Shishu Academy Act.
Since the ratification of the Convention in 1991, Bangladesh has taken up some important steps for increasing awareness of the rights of the children. National Children’s day beginning in 1992 now turned into a Child Rights Week providing a valuable platform for raising awareness of child rights among children and population in general. The Islamic Foundation has disseminated information on the rights of children to Imams throughout the country.
Bangladesh have adhered to numerous regional and international declarations concerning children. A National Children Policy was adopted in December 1994. It lists the main objectives about the rights of child and calls for creation of a National Council for Children comprising relevant government ministries, agencies, individuals and NGO representatives.
Its functions include making policy on the welfare of the children and working for the adoption of new laws where necessary. National Plan of Action (1997-2002) was undertaken for development of children. Women and Children Affairs Ministry, UNICEF and other NGOs are jointly working on way to taking up another 2002-2007 National Plan of Action for creating a child friendly environment across the country.
Birth registration of children has already been introduced and various steps taken up to ensure that no child fall victim to discrimination. Government has declared the 2001-2010 as Child Rights Decade to raise awareness about child rights among the people. Shishu Academy was formed and the Women Ministry was turned into Women and Children Affairs Ministry in 1994.
A programme named ‘Natun Kuri’ was launched on Television for children aimed at encouraging their talent. The government made primary education compulsory and giving cash incentive to parents of the children to ensure less drop out. The government committed to stop repression on children has established a safe custody to provide security for children who are sent to jail.
Bangladesh government has taken up Appropriate Resources for Improving Street Children’s Environment (ARISE) project to promote and protect the rights of the children. ARISE envisions a favourable environment congenial to the health growth and empowerment of the street children.
Some 55,000 street children of country’s six divisional cities have been benefited so far in the ARISE, the first government initiative to address and resolve the street children phenomenon. It is not possible for government alone to ensure the development for children. Everybody, including parents, should come forward for the welfare of the children.