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Lending a helping hand to urban working children

© UNICEF/2012/Ahsan Khan
Children receive an award in recognition of their outstanding efforts in life during a celebration of Child Rights Week 2012.

By Ahsan Khan

DHAKA, October 4, 2012:  “I now have the courage to travel anywhere in the world by myself with just a passport and ticket, thanks to all the skills I have gathered from my time at the drop-in-centre,” says twenty-one year old Rosy Howlader. “The most important thing I got from the drop-in centre is an education.”

Rosy received daytime support from a drop-in-centre in the city’s Kawran Bazaar area until she was 17.  She is now is a part-owner of a beauty salon with six other girls who also used to go to the drop-in-centre. Such centres are part of a UNICEF-supported programme for Child Sensitive Social Protection in Bangladesh, CSSPB, which provides social protection for vulnerable urban children and helps them to move towards a better future.

In November 2008, Rosy participated UNICEF-supported World Congress III Against Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, focusing on how to protect children from various types of sexual exploitation such as child marriage. Three hundred participants came from 125 countries at the Congress and such an exposure has helped Rosy develop her confidence and the skills necessary to make her dreams come true.

Twenty-one year old Rina Akter was separated from her siblings when she was seven, and her parents had passed away. She took refuge at a drop-in-centre in Arambagh area of Dhaka, where she was given food and shelter, vocational, life-skills and computer training, and an education. Now, she is earning about Tk. 19,000 per month working as a make-up artist at a renowned beauty salon. “I have given opportunities to many girls from the drop-in-centres, and always try to help them because I enjoy giving back to the place from where I got a start.”

In 2003, Rina was re-united with her siblings. Her eyes sparkle with emotion when she says, “I was at a loss for words when I saw my brother and sister again. I never thought that it would be possible.” Now, after the passing away of her older siblings, Rina is proudly taking take of their three children and supporting herself.

© UNICEF/2012/Ahsan Khan
Rina Akter, 21 speaks about her experience at a drop-in centre during a celebration of Child Rights Week 2012.

Children living on the streets are particularly vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. Even when these children live with their families, poverty and a lack of services are common. Many children grow up on the margins of society without adequate accommodation, protection, education, health care, food, drinking water, security, recreation and guidance.

These children also endure increased risks to their safety and well-being. Many of them work, often in hazardous and low-waged jobs, to support themselves and their families. Unequal distribution of resources, low family incomes and unemployment of parents and guardians means that many families depend on their children's earnings to survive. Across Bangladesh, children contribute, on average, between 20 and 30 per cent of income.

“I am studying at higher secondary level and working as a part time assistant film director for advertising firms,” says 19-year-old Yeasin Rahman when asked what he does. 

He spent 10 years as a child in a UNICEF-supported drop-in-centre in the Lalbagh area of Dhaka. During his time in the centre, he participated in many UNICEF-sponsored activities that included training in film-making. “At first, I thought would become a journalist. I even thought I would become an actor after I starred in a television film. Later, I found a passion in film-making,” says Yeasin.

Seventeen years old Hasina Akter, who is studying in college and working at a prestigious electronics company says, “I learnt everything I know at the drop-in-centre. I received healthcare, food, an education and made great friends there. I also learnt about electronics. Now, I feel better prepared for the outside world.”

In the first six months in 2012, a total 1,944 children received holistic social protection services (shelter, nutrition, clothing, health care and hygiene, education, life skills, vocational training and employment, recreational activities and social work) through six drop-in centres alone. 

During 2011, 8,144 children regularly attended a 6-month-long course on non-formal basic education at one of the 97 open air schools organised in parks, markets, ports, other public spaces and the 18 drop-in centres (DICs) in the six city corporations of Bangladesh.

UNICEF in partnership with the government continues to work with vulnerable urban children who need a helping hand in a rapidly urbanizing society, so that children are not denied their rights. 



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