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Bangladesh Urban Forum 2011

© UNICEF/2011/Ahsan Khan
Children talk about rights that they want the government to protect at a panel discussion during the Bangladesh Urban Forum. Present amongst others is Ms. Arifa Zaman Moushumi, Chief Guest and UNICEF advocate for Child Rights.
By Vanessa Curney

Dhaka, 13 December 2011: The consensus is that Bangladesh’s urban population will reach a staggering 50 million in 2015, and by that time Dhaka is set to become the fourth largest city in the world, just behind Tokyo, Mumbai and Lagos.The Bangladesh Urban Forum held in Dhaka from the 5th to 7th December is a first attempt to address these issues on a public broad national platform.

“Most migrants come betting life in Dhaka will beat life in the village” said Dr. Kaosar Afsana from BRAC. And, the Forum notes, it’s true that poverty declined in urban areas from 63 per cent in 1973 to 21.3 per cent in 2010. There is also agreement that the contribution of the urban population to the national GDP increased from 26 per cent of GDP in 1972 to more than 50 per cent by 2005.

However, it’s also the case that rapid urbanization hasn’t necessarily improved the lives of the most marginalised – in the city these tend to be those Bangladeshis living in the slums: “the day labourers, domestic helps, rickshaw drivers, van pullers, road-side vendors, hawkers or beggars” says Dr. Afsana, who also noted that young people and adolescents comprise a large proportion of the slum population, with women and children being especially vulnerable. “More than two million children live in Dhaka’s slums, where malnutrition and other aspects of rapid urbanisation are acute” he said.

© UNICEF/2011/Ahsan Khan
Ms. Arifa Zaman Moushumi, Chief Guest and UNICEF advocate for Child Rights talks to guests present during a panel discussion at the Bangladesh Urban Forum.

Carel De Rooy, UNICEF Bangladesh Representative, pointed out that the under-five mortality rate in slums (95/1000 live births) is almost double the average urban rate (53/1000 live births) and almost 50 per cent higher than the rural rate (66/1000 live births).

UNICEF’s Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) finds that urban slums in Bangladesh perform worst when it comes to the well-being of women and children and their access to basic services, in comparison to rural slums and non-slum urban areas. The same survey also conveys that as far as education goes, primary school attendance for children living in the urban slum is considerably worse than the national average (65% against 81%) and “there appears to be no overall plan to bring all slum children to a primary school of acceptable quality” remarked one of the keynote speakers, Manzoor Ahmed from BRAC University.

On 6th December, UNICEF organized a session on ‘Women, Children and People Living with Disability’ which was attended by UNICEF Advocate for Child Rights ArifaZamanMoushumi as the Chief Guest, where she urged for united efforts from all stakeholders to build equity based society. The interactive session was taken over by around 50 children who discussed the question: how communities can put into place measures to support all children at home, at school and in their communities. The session concluded with a four-point declaration based on the issues flagged by the participating children which includes, the right to adequate housing with proper sanitation, drinking water and air and light facilities and protection; right to recreation with proper facilities of playground for all age for children and specially for girls and children with special abilities, adequate security, child friendly roads and lanes and supportive community; provision for inclusive education , for all children including children with disabilities, and equal opportunity for all and equal treatment for all children from the family and community members; and prevention and protection of children from Eve teasing,  humiliation, corporal punishment and discrimination and promote family based care for all children. The Children Act 2011 has been approved by Cabinet which is paving the way to change harmful social norms and proactive social work for the protection of children at risk in the urban setting.

The Bangladesh Urban Forum brought together a wide range of participants from Government, international organisations, international NGOs, the media and academia.

For more information visit: BUF website



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