Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA)
SIDA fund UNICEF to provide child protection and education programmes in Bangladesh. Sweden’s Ambassador in Bangladesh, Britt Hagstrőm, discusses SIDA’s commitment to working alongside UNICEF for the protection and empowerment of children in Bangladesh.
SIDA is a major donor of UNICEF Bangladesh’s Child Protection and Education programmes. Why are these issues of particular importance to SIDA?
Sweden, like Bangladesh, has ratified the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child and thus has an obligation to support countries in the protection of children’s rights. Sweden is committed to the Education For All initiative and the fulfillment of the Millennium Development Goals. Sweden is also a signatory to the Paris Principles of Aid Effectiveness and the country programme is therefore fully aligned with the Bangladesh Poverty Reduction Strategy. The Swedish Country Cooperation Strategy with Bangladesh focuses on the perspectives of the poor and their rights, stating “that the right to education and a clean and healthy environment is fulfilled for women, men, girls and boys living in poverty”.
Have you seen any improvements in SIDA-supported projects in Bangladesh recently?
The Basic Education for Hard to Reach Urban Working Children (BEHTRUWC) has focused on children, especially girls, doing hazardous work. The project integrates child protection measures, such as rigorous monitoring and follow-up of the children’s situation both inside and outside the learning centres. During the first phase of the project almost 350,000 children (aged 8 – 14) received a two-year basic education course. Few students dropped out and classes closed with more students then originally enrolled. One thousand of those graduates (aged 12-14) were provided with livelihood skills training. In the second phase of the project (continuing until 2011), more than 6,600 learning centres are providing life skills based basic education to more than 166,000 urban working children. One key area of concern is ensuring safe livelihoods for these children.
We have also seen some significant progress in the teaching - learning process and parental and community involvement. Further focus on the employer’s role and responsibility is a key aspect. . All this has led to improvements in terms of learning, safety at the work place, security of children attending learning centres and, not least, happier children.
As a direct result of this project, working children and adolescents have better access to their rights for education, protection, participation and development. Accessing these rights empowers children to make decisions regarding their own futures and access to wider range of life options.
What are SIDA’s priorities in 2009 in regards to work you are sponsoring in Bangladesh?
Improving the lives of the poor through tangible results, ensuring a rights perspective in programming, human security and gender equality and democratic governance are our main priorities. The four principles of participation, non-discrimination, transparency and accountability will guide our work in Bangladesh in 2009.
SIDA supports programmes in Africa, Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe as well as Asia. How, in SIDA’s eyes, is Asia (and Bangladesh in particular) progressing to meet the Millennium Development Goals?
The mid-term Millennium Development Goal report shows that Bangladesh is doing well to achieve its targets, as it is on track in most cases. However, maternal health and the completion of primary education require special attention.