Cash injects hope into slums
By Vanessa Curney
Dhaka, 23 February 2012: Sumona lives in one of the slums on Bangshal Road in Old Dhaka with her twelve-year old daughter, and one-year old son. Their house is a makeshift, windowless shack made of corrugated iron, with old newspapers serving as wallpaper.
Two things stand out against the low-lit drabness: a calendar hanging from one of the walls depicts a sumptuously modern hotel suite overlooking a gorgeously clear blue ocean; and some delicately woven pleated silver-black necklaces hang from the door - Sumona’s handicraft and trade.
Sumona’s daughter Shima has been selected for a cash transfer programme currently implemented by the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs along with UNICEF.
A total of 500 children in Dhaka have been receiving this support for the first time in the urban area.Each child receives 1,500 takas (c. $22) per month (in two or three instalments by cheque) for up to 18 months with the potential to extend.
Specially trained social workers visit the families several times a month and record progress through a structured case management system. They give the cash to the families with the following conditions:
Thirteen-year old Tania is another participant living in the same area. The cash injection has produced several results for her and her family: her father is a rickshaw-puller and has been able to repair his vehicle, Tania and her siblings can now concentrate on their education since they no longer need to rummage through trash to take to recycling factories. In addition, around 10,000 takas have been saved for the family’s future.
Like Tania’s family, many cash transfer recipients generate income through forming new or developing existing businesses.UNICEF wants to extend the model programme across Bangladesh and to 10,000 children – a number that’s a drop in the ocean considering there are approximately 7.42 million working children across the country (in both rural and urban areas) , often doing unhealthy and hazardous work at the expense of their schooling.
In Old Dhaka, a slum in the Bongshal area, five and a half year old Imon Hossein is timidly reciting a long Bengali rhyme to an appreciative audience composed of social workers and UNICEF staff. He is enjoying primary school (class 1) very much, with his favourite subjects being Bengali and Mathematics. Imon was abandoned by his father and his mother has passed away; he is now cared for by his aunt, Alinur and his uncle, Abdul. His schooling is supported through the cash transfers the family receives.
The money is also improving business for Abdul, who puts together and sells cartons. Before leaving, the social workers give the attentive family nutritional advice for dealing with Imon’s afternoon tiredness. For Imon, Tania and Sumona, at least, the cash transfers offer hints of a more hopeful future beyond their slum existence. “Whatever happens with this cash transfer in the future,” says Sumona, Shima’s mother, flicking through an English Grammar course book, “I’m determined that my daughter will study to secondary school. Her advancement will continue.”