Trading with tiny hands: Do we really care?

On June 12, Bangladesh, along with other countries, observed World Day Against Child Labor, with elaborate programs. There were press notes, messages, seminars, round tables, talk shows, texts and posters distributed throughout the country. The heartbreaking stories of young working children made us emotional for a day. Some key people even flew to Geneva to inform the world of our progress and also to mobilize the international community in our favor. Everything has been done for the good cause – elimination of the child labor of our country. While we were busy talking about their lives and their sufferings, ironically, their little hands continued to work to meet our needs.

This year 's theme was "In conflict and disaster, protecting children from child labor", a timely appeal indeed when the year began with devastating floods and cyclones, Flooding the farmland of our country. Worldwide, 1.5 billion people are affected by conflict, violence and fragility; Of which 200 million are victims of annual disasters; One third of these people are children and some 168 million are engaged in child labor.

Child victims are at the forefront of any natural or man – made disaster. As part of a program of the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics that unveiled a report entitled "Bangladesh Disaster Statistics 2015: Climate Change and Natural Disasters", as part of the Impact on Change Program Climate Change on Human Life (ICCHL), held on 26 June 2016, after The effects of natural disasters were revealed. The report showed that damaged schools, failure of communications, reduced household income and illness had an impact on the lives of children and their studies. The Center for Environment and Geographic Information added that 0.1 million people are homeless each year in the country due to the erosion of rivers alone. Natural disasters affect the poorest classes for predictable reasons, and children, as family members, suffer the most.

During the recent flooding in Sunamganj and Haor regions, we learned that there was no prior preparedness or alert system to deal with the challenges come. In fact, when you think of it, with the exception of cyclones, no effective systematic approach has yet been developed in Bangladesh to handle other natural disasters. In Bangladesh, river erosion, flooding and cyclones are among the main reasons for children to leave their homes in the village to go to the cities in search of work. A BBS report indicates that every day 959 people, including children, migrate to the city of Dhaka to search for their livelihoods due to natural disasters and the effects of climate change.

However, there is not much data on the number of children affected by flooding this year or other years, and there is little Information on the number of children who lose their homes during these disasters and are forced to separate from their families when they leave their schools to migrate to cities to join the labor market. We can, however, assume that the number will be significant. Do we know that one of every 16 children nationwide and one in five children in some cities has joined the workforce (End of Child Labor in Bangladesh, published Jointly by UNICEF, BBS, BIDS, 2015); Of the 12 lakh children, 80,000 are employed in hazardous conditions. More alarmingly, about 4 lakh children are employed without pay, while 85 per cent of these children do the work of adults to earn a few hundred dollars; The maximum of a child worker is paid to Tk. 5 500 (Prothom Alo, 30 January 2016).

In addition to natural disasters, children are separated from their families and join the labor force due to family crisis and conflict, death or abandonment of their father, The divorce of their parents. In the absence of family care, they are forced to fend for themselves. During these crucial moments, some "intermediaries" take advantage of the situation, taking charge of the vulnerable child to enroll them in a job that can be dangerous and even life threatening.

Child labor is nurtured in our society, despite state initiatives, non-governmental organizations and advocacy organizations. It is much easier to exploit children and, most importantly, their work is cheap! The Government lists 38 types of hazardous work for children, but domestic work remains a dangerous job, although many employers harass and abuse their children with impunity. Of course, there is a vague idea that we are helping these poor children and their families to "survive" by offering them food and shelter. But we do not tell the real story and how we exploit them for our comfort. The projects undertaken to protect these children are mainly superficial and temporary. Also, what happens when projects end up?

Yet some progress has been made. We have a national policy, legislation and a plan of action, as well as the international protocols we have ratified to deal with the issue of child labor. Our labor law stipulates that no child under the age of 14 can be employed, but it has also maintained the provision of a "light work" for children 12 years and older! However, the Ministry of Labor and Employment has developed extensive plans, created the National Council of Child Labor Welfare and an inspection service. District inspectors are trained and placed in cities across the country. Last year, at the World Day Against Child Labor, the Honorable Minister of State of the Ministry of Labor and Employment stated that in 2021, Would achieve the objective of SDG 8.7, which requires "to take immediate and effective measures to ensure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labor, the eradication of forced labor; And by 2025, put an end to child labor in all its forms. "

The government's roadmap should take into account a complete mapping of the current situation, assessing and avoiding overlap. Moreover, in any event, the State should prioritize the idea of ​​"first school". Skills development programs for dropouts and those already on the labor market should also be considered. Social protection measures to cover the cost of living and education of children in vulnerable families could prevent children from joining the workforce. The city enterprises and the versashavas should also be linked to the implementation of the Labor Law, as child labor is largely concentrated in these areas, which also cover 34.28% of the total population (UN World Urbanization Prospects, 2015). In this regard, the inclusion of a strict clause in municipal laws is necessary to prevent city dwellers from engaging in child labor. Moreover, the monitoring process of the Ministry of Labor and Employment must be much more rigorous and this can be done by assuming the active role of the government and other state actors. Finally, public awareness is a must as well as the widespread dissemination of the 109 telephone line that runs the National Center for Women's and Children's Aid.

An annual report on "Child Labor and the Progress We Have Achieved" could also be helpful, particularly in achieving SDG 8.7, and reporting back to UNCITRAL on Articles 74 and 75 by March 2021.

In response to the calls for World Day against Child Labor 2017, we need to return to legal documents such as the Disaster Management Act 2012, the 2010 Disaster Response Regulations, the National Plan for Disaster Reduction Disaster management, the National Strategy on Disaster Management and Climate-induced Displacement, etc., to find ways to protect children after disasters. Through concerted efforts, we can free ourselves from the curse of child labor.

The writer is a development worker.

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