19 Dec 2020 — Life and livelihood are tied in the same thread in recent times. There have been various problems and worries about livelihood. Many lives have stopped for Covid-19. This epidemic time explains that life is a struggle for survival. So, we have to struggle and survive. This world is very cruel today. However, many people have been accustomed to and familiar with this cruelty for many years.
Poor children and street children understand what the urge for livelihood is, what hunger means. In developing countries like Bangladesh, the rate of child labor is very high. This number has also increased significantly in Covid-19.
According to the South Asia Economic Focus report of the World Bank published in October, the number of poor people in Bangladesh has doubled during the Corona period. The poverty rate has increased from 12.5 percent to 22 percent. According to a report by the World Bank, Bangladesh’s economic growth could fall from 7% to two or three percent in the event of a Coronavirus.
After Covid-19 the number will increase drastically. The World Bank’s South Asian Economic Focus report, released on October 6, predicts that GDP growth could fall to 1.8 percent in the current fiscal year. The World Bank says that in the same period, Bangladesh’s economic growth will be two to three percent. The situation will get worse in 2021.
Baishakhi, ph. Ashikur Rahman Khan | Image from Wall Street International
Child labor means working with a child for many hours. Which has a devastating effect on their body and mind. Bangladesh Labor Act, 2006 specifically states that no child under the age of 14 can be employed and it is possible to employ people between the ages of 14 and 18, but not risky jobs.
The 2013 Labor Survey shows that the number of working children between the ages of five and 16 is about 7.5 million. According to the Child Labor Survey, 1.3 million children are involved in high-risk jobs. The rate of child labor was high before Coronavirus. According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) data for 2016, there are 1.6 million child laborers in the country. Many children have to take responsibility to run the family at a very early age. I will describe some such tragic and real cruel scenes.
Baishakhi, her age will be 8-9 years old. She sells flowers on the campus of Dhaka University. She is fascinated by many people for her smiling face. She supports her family by selling flowers. She was supposed to go to school, play with her friends but scarcity has changed her fortunes. The footprints of the little girl show that life is captive of poverty.
A 7-8-year-old boy is sitting on the side of the stairs with dust on his hands and feet and a bunch of roses. He sells flowers and earns money. He looks intently at the students of the university. The dream of going to school is hidden in his look. Poverty is the only obstacle to fulfilling his dream. After walking all day and selling flowers, he got tired at night and returned home. The journey started again the next morning.
Girl selling oyster garlands in Cox’s Bazar, ph. Saurab Barua | Image from Wall Street International
Many children sell oyster garlands in Cox’s Bazar. Throughout the day, children walk from one place to another place and sell garlands. This is difficult and dangerous work for children. Many times it can be a risky affair because Cox’s Bazar is a tourist spot.
Where different people come to visit. Poverty pushes their lives into darkness before they see the light. Their gray eyes silently tell us how much they are discriminated against. Their pity faces ask always when the days of scarcity are over. Were they born out of this world just to be deprived?
Ripon is only 14 years old. Instead of going to school, he works in a hotel for lack of money. He looks very helpless as if poverty always haunts him. The fear of slavery is frightening him day by day. Fear and shame in his eyes while taking the picture. His work continues from 4 am to 1 am. Only 3 hours for sleep. Day by day he is passing his days and making a scream.
Due to the existence of the university area, many organizations have taken responsibility in their field of education. Some organizations have come forward which are helping them a lot in their education. But, there are many questions about the quality of education of these organizations.
Before Covid-19, their lives were uncertain. Many of them did not always get food. But after Covid-19, many children from lower-middle-class families were forced to work in child labor and many uncertain life stories are being created. Currently, Covid-19 is having a huge impact on the economies of developing countries around the world.
Robin, ph. Mojibul Bashar | Image from Wall Street International
Financial insecurity is seen in almost every household. Poverty and various problems are on the rise. Many parents are sending their school-going children to work because of poverty. On the other hand, men have more priority than women in Bangladesh. There will be inequality in educational institutions.
In a life of uncertainty, some seek luxury, some may seek peace and some seek livelihood. Some child on one side of the earth looks for toy and some child on the other sides take responsibility for their family. The turn of inequality begins. However, for Covid this inequality will increase.
Her name is Mim. Her age is 9. She cannot tell her age exactly. She is so shy that she didn’t want to take pictures. She makes and sells garlands. She has to sell garlands because of her family’s financial difficulties in Covid-19. Her mother is ill and she has to sell garlands all day long. Her daily income is a huge contribution to her family at this moment. A girl of such a young age is happy to get a little something. However, happiness never lasts for them. Tears and hunger are their only companions.
Robin (pseudonym) is a child of eight-nine years. He is making fuchka (a type of food) with a lot of responsibility. While everyone is spending their days in panic during the Corona epidemic he is selling it with health risks due to family responsibilities. His mother used to work in houses but she lost her job in Corona time. He is happy with what he is earning. To Robin, stomach pain from hunger is more frightening than the Coronavirus.
A 10-11-year-old boy who works in a rod shop. These jobs are quite a health risk and also bring mental exhaustion. They don’t get a satisfactory monthly salary. As a result, these children are always deprived of their basic rights and fail to maintain their family but they have to work like this day after day. There are many who are very young, but they have to carry a hammer or a machine instead of a pen just to make a living.
Every child has talents. Underprivileged and street children have also different thoughts and talents. Tired faces want to smile at the end of the day. Their small hands want to touch another tender hand. They get happiness in playing time. No matter how hard the day is, they want to enjoy in their own world. Their life is full of struggles.
The underprivileged and street children have also different thoughts and talents, ph. Ashikur Rahman | Image from Wall Street International
A little cooperation, a little sympathy, a little love can change their lives. A big task like the elimination of child labor may not be possible for the government alone. We all need to work and help from our own place to sustain their happiness. Children are the assets for the future. For them, the government and various agencies have to work together.
We have to help by dividing into different parts from village to town so that we reach out to them with a short, medium, long term plan.
Child labor should be given priority in the National Social Security Strategy. There is a lack of coordination between different organizations. With the right coordination, we can do a long way. If organizations get to help internationally, many children will have the opportunity to study and run a family. We are making people aware of the need to eliminate child labor in different parts of Bangladesh.
Many people think that getting a child to work means slavery. Risky work should not be given. Children who are working in different stores or as helpers need to make sure that they get basic needs. In this case, some organizations or government initiatives may increase the work of handicrafts and cottage industries. They can make lists where lower class people will get more priority.
Private or international organizations can help needy people in the region by providing work or financial or loans. Students who need to work can study in the technical or vocational institutions. This will allow them to learn to work faster. Which they will be able to apply later.
Children are as sacred as flowers. With everyone’s efforts, child labor may be reduced a lot. Their smiles will make this world more colorful. Don’t let their short life fade away in the pursuit of a livelihood.
I am Tonni Aktar and I have completed my B.A. at the University of Dhaka-Bangladesh. I am a feature writer and a researcher and had two papers published by a renowned journal this year. I live in Dhaka. Author profile