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Bangladesh puts the spotlight on children during Child Rights Week

© UNICEF Bangladesh/2009/Saikat
The 600 working children who came to the free CRC week concert were excited to see Bappa Majumder perform.
Dhaka, October 10, 2009. For many working children, the right to leisure and play is difficult to come by. But on this sunny afternoon at Dhaka’s ‘Shishu’ (Children’s) Academy, more than 600 children who are engaged in child labour danced, sang and had fun as they watched a concert organized as part of the Child Rights Week programme.

For this concert, the popular Bangladeshi singer Bappa Majumdar, the magician Ulfat Kabir and his wife Roxana, and four of the stars from ‘Khude Ganraj’, a group of child singers, performed on a voluntary basis.

In an auditorium decorated with balloons and colourful cut-out flowers and animals, children’s faces beamed with huge smiles as they yelled out song requests and danced in the aisles. “I feel very good, very relaxed and very thankful to all. It was a relief from my normal life,” said Jasmine, a 13-year-old who juggles school attendance while also working long hours as an embroiderer.

The concert, which was broadcast live on Channel I, was also an opportunity to speak about child labour and send some messages about the need for all children to access education and live a decent life.

Some of the children in the audience were interviewed where they talked about their hardship, explaining that they could not go to school and did not have a house. Moushumi Baurua, the master of ceremony, called for society to come to the aid of these children and stop involving them in hazardous jobs. “Even if these children need to work to help their family, the least we should do is to ensure that they are working in a safe and congenial environment,” said Ulfat Kabir. 

The concert was part of a week-long programme of activities organised by the Government of Bangladesh with support from UNICEF and a number of organizations for children such as Save the Children Alliance, Shishu Odhikar Forum, Girl Child Advocacy Forum. The programme ranged from fun activities for children to policy debates on legislative reform.

This year, the Child Rights Week had special significance as the world celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Convention of the Rights of the Child. This Convention represents a major milestone in the historic effort to achieve a world fit for children.

At the inauguration of the week, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina emphasised the importance of upholding the rights of marginalised children such as girls, the disabled and the poor.  UNICEF Representative in Bangladesh, Carel De Rooy, reminded the audience that Bangladesh recently submitted its periodic reports on the implementation of the Convention to the Committee on the Rights of the Child. “The Committee issued specific recommendations to ensure the full realization of the rights of the child in the country. As a state party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Bangladesh has an obligation to take all necessary measures to address these recommendations made by the Committee,” he said.
Other key events in the week-long programme included the launch of a children’s opinion poll supported by UNICEF,  which showed a widespread use of corporal punishment in Bangladesh in schools, homes and workplace. A rally and cultural programme for female children and a seminar and other activities for children with disabilities were also organized.

A policy dialogue was facilitated by Prothom Alo newspaper to discuss the need for an ombudsman for children. State Minister for Women and Children Shirin Sharmin Chowdhury told the roundtable discussion that Bangladesh needs a truly functional and independent ombudsman. The roundtable was organised in partnership with UNICEF and was attended by cross-section of civil society and NGO leaders and policy makers.





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