Sunday, 20 June, 2021; 3:01 pm
It is a widely-acknowledged truth that today’s child is tomorrow’s future. A child is like a tiny bud that grows on a plant and from which a flower, leaf or stem develops. Just like a bud, a child follows the same course to develop as a grownup. Though this process of development occurs naturally, it requires a particular way of nursing and attending from an external force that comes as an aid to it to be bloomed properly and completely. But to our sheer astonishment, like a bud that dies younger facing the harsh implications of climate change of today, a child’s growth is being marred and hindered by different sorts of undue and untimely labor, widely called child labor.
According to International Labor Organization (ILO), the term ‘child labor’ is often defined as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical, mental, social and moral development. If we analyze this definition of child labor in a broader perspective, we will notice that Bangladesh, like most other developing countries, is a large home to child labor. Here, one can easily see child workers serving at tea stalls, cafes, restaurants, cornfields, mills and factories, houses and even on the streets. They usually live a very poor and shabby way of life. It is an irony of fate that, while children from the privileged sections of our society attend schools, these ill-fated child workers work outside to make their both ends meet. While children from well-of families enjoy a wide range of expensive schooling facilities, proper treatments, nutritious foods, love and affection, children from poor families fight against their ill-fate and struggle to live from hand to mouth.
As the world is approaching towards a broader process of globalization and capitalism that jointly unfold their lucrative plans of getting more production and profit, innumerable numbers of mills, factories and production houses are being built throughout the world. This complex process needs a huge number of workers. And that demand is fulfilled by both grownup and under aged working class people. Parents send their loving children to the cruel hands of those fiend-like capitalists finding no other durable solution to their lifelong poverty. Due to some deep-rooted socioeconomic constraints, Bangladesh is no exception to this case. Like other countries, it too is soaked and stained with the red blood of the child workers who have been and are still being robbed and deprived of their childhood, potential, dignity, paternal love and affection and, overall, universal basic human rights.
In Bangladesh, these unfortunate child workers are severely subjected to gloomy work conditions like unsafe workplace, health hazards, unfixed-wages. They are even vulnerable to mental, physical and sexual harassment. Home to over 4.7 millions child workers, Bangladesh has been the discourse of global headache regarding child labor and children’s universal rights. The world community tends to believe that Bangladesh is now a large production house of child labor. But this sort of disgraceful identity doesn’t suit to a country that made an unfaltering history of sacrifice for the sake of upholding freedom. With the passage of time, that same country takes away the universal rights and freedom of childhood of those tender hearts that might have countless capabilities and potentials to unveil for their people and motherland.
Obviously, the current scenario of child rights in Bangladesh is very lamentable and sobering. In no way, it reflects international standards and criteria of child rights. But it’s true, things are different in a country where 23.5% people still live below poverty line. For many families, there is none but an unlucky child to earn their livelihood. Such types of tenacious economic hardships force our bright children to be dropped out of school and make them work outside as a full-time worker to assist their needy families. But economic hardship is not the lone case that snatches away our child’s golden childhood and potential manhood. As more than 30% people of Bangladesh are still illiterate, lack of knowledge and awareness spoil our children’s bright future and hinder their physical as well as mental growth. To most of these illiterate parents, the concept ‘child labor’ is a strange and unknown matter. Their ignorance and unawareness push their children to the workplace at a time when they are supposed to attend school and attain the essential knowledge of life.
Precisely enough, this is the gruesome picture of our socioeconomic circumstances that exert an unhealthy influence on the lives of our radiant children. These fatal socioeconomic circumstances of ours cast a black spell over our conscience so much so that we can’t see what sorts of games are being played on with the fate of these little angels. According to a study titled ‘child labor situation in informal sector of Bangladesh’ conducted by the Nielsen Company (Bangladesh Ltd.) 2016, 57% child laborers of Bangladesh are found to be victims of physical tortures. Another study carried out by the Overseas Development Institute finds that child laborers living in slums work an average of 64 hours a week. This study reveals that child labor is rampant in Bangladesh. Another study conducted in 2017 showed that 13 children were killed every week between January and November 2017. Figures provided by Ain o Salish Kendro(ASK) show that 574 children were either killed or committed suicide between January and November of the same year . Throughout 2018, we came across the pathetic stories of unfortunate girls named Sathi Akhter(10), Hawa Begum(12), Bristy(13), Roksana(10) and many others who had been subjected to unbearable physical and mental tortures during their tenures as house maids. These concise accounts regarding child labor and child labor conditions in Bangladesh ache our conscience and terrify our souls.
Children are the gifts that we get from heaven. They are our blessing, happiness and contentment. Every child, either of a poor family or a rich one, is special and unique. Every child can surely prove its worthiness and value if it is properly nurtured and taken care of. Likewise, a child must prove to be a failure if it is neglected and deprived of the rights that it deserves as a part of humans. Witnessing a child’s worthiness and timeless value, famous English romantic poet William Wordsworth precisely quotes, “The child is the father of the man”. As this widely-accepted statement contains truth in itself, it echoes with ours, ” The child is the future of our nation “. So, we all should consider every child as our asset and , thereby, make the best use of its potentials. Admittedly enough, child labor is the greatest hindrance to execute this vital task of ours. Honestly speaking, the more we prolong our holy duty to pull up the rein of child labor from our holy land, the more it spoils our unending future.
The writer is a teacher and columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]
Our facebook page