Children and their rights

There are over 60 million children in Bangladesh. Although Bangladesh has a stable and growing economy, half of these children continue to live below the international poverty line. There are 19 million children under the age of five in Bangladesh; the chance of these children surviving to their fifth birthday has increased by 10 per cent in the last 20 years. Bangladesh also suffers from a range of governance problems that obstruct the realization of children’s rights. The Government’s structure is highly centralized, limiting local officials’ authority and flexibility to adapt services to local circumstances and demand. Achievements in the social sectors since the early 1990s have mainly expanded access.

In Bangladesh, children rarely have opportunities to express themselves, and when they do, adults tend not to take them seriously. In the middle of the childhood, when children are developing the capacity for independent opinions and participation in decision-making, parents often control them to work or study hard and unilaterally make important decisions concerning their lives. Initiatives in seeking the children’s views in the formulation of policies regarding child abuse and the commercial sex exploitation and trafficking of children have also been taken at national level. But the parents oppose their children from such initiative because they think speaking out publicly is inappropriate, particularly for girls. The ailment of children with disabilities also reflects the inequalities in the society of themselves and their caregivers.

Challenges facing the children of Bangladesh

Protection

  • Bangladesh has one of the highest rates of the child marriage in the world with 66% of women (aged 20-24) married before turned 18
  • 13 % of children are involved in child labor. Child laborers are frequently denied an education and are vulnerable to violence and abuse.
  • Bangladesh has one of the lowest rates of birth registration in the world. This makes it difficult to protect children from trafficking, child labor and child marriage

Education

  • Only 80 % of students enrolled in grade one complete primary school
  • High drop-out rates and poor quality teaching and learning are serious problems for primary schools
  • Only 46 % of boys and 53 per cent of girls attend secondary school

Health and nutrition

  • Neonatal death and maternal mortality rates remain high, primarily because most deliveries take place at home without access to proper medical care
  • Health facilities lack qualified staff and suffer from shortages of supplies
  • Under-nutrition contributes to child mortality. 22 % of infants are born with low birth weight. Up to 46 % f children under-five are underweight
  • Drowning and injury is the leading cause of death among children older than one year
  • Major prevention efforts are needed to keep HIV prevalence rates low

Water and sanitation

  • Only 53 % of the population use improved sanitation facilities
  • Only 80 % of the population has access to safe drinking water, primarily because of naturally occurring arsenic contamination of groundwater in some areas
  • Safe hygiene practices, especially proper hand washing remain a challenge in the fight against disease

Emergencies and conflict

  • Development is hampered by annual floods and other natural disasters, including cyclones, tornados and earthquakes
  • Avian influenza continues to threaten lives and livelihoods in Bangladesh
  • Low-lying Bangladesh is extremely vulnerable to the effects of climate change
  • The Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) in south-eastern Bangladesh, where ethnic minorities make up half the population, have suffered a slower development rate than the national average, due primarily to a history of civil conflict and the difficult terrain
  • The health and wellbeing of Rohingya refugee children, whose families fled from Myanmar to the south-eastern part of Bangladesh following internal conflict, remains a concern

World Vision Response

Goal: is to ensure child rights and empower children as agents of change

World Vision Bangladesh Child Rights Sector seeks to pursue its call and aspiration through three intervention strategies:

  • Bolstering child survival and development through
    • Facilitation of basic needs
    • Advocacy for equal opportunities for girls and boys
    • Building capacity at child, family , community and societal levels
    • Sustaining and growing alliances with local organizations and NGOs delivering child and family services
    • Poverty reduction efforts
  • Ensure the fundamental safety of children through
    • Advocacy for child protection in family and society
    • Legal capacity building for local partners and CBOs
    • Facilitation of basic livelihood support for families
    • Awareness building on educational benefits and effects of early marriage
    • Integration and partnerships with other child rights organizations
    • Fostering child-friendly spaces
    • Development of local capacity for psycho-social care
    • Emphasis on child protection and abuse reduction in World Vision Bangladesh projects
  • Enable children to actively participate in decision-making through
    • Ensuring child participation in World Vision sponsorship and project activities
    • Enlisting children as disseminators of information
    • Engaging children in project management especially in the area of education
    • Advocating for a child’s right to participate and express opinion

Key Results:

  • 52 % of children under birth registration in this month
  • 115 % of children participated in leadership, capacity building and advocacy skills training/orientation/workshop
  • 90% of community people attended in training/workshop/seminar on child rights
  • There are 174392 active sponsored children in WV Bangladesh ADPs
  • 55% of children are female
  • 45% of children are male
  • 98% of children attended in the moral, cultural and ethical program organized for RC
  • 94% of participants attended in child trafficking awareness program

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Impact Story

“Now I am a well-known child leader in Panchbibi ADP of World Vision Bangladesh. A few years ago nobody was able to discover himself/herself before being associated with Child Forum. But whenever a child becomes member of Child Forum Committee and starts working with other children they can become popular upgrading their knowledge. Children realize it as a good platform to know each other and learning leadership.”

It was not long ago the 8 -year -old Rejekun Rita was an unfortunate child with little hope for ever having a normal life. She was only 7 when her father Jamal Hossain (55) died and her mother Amina Begum fell into deep distress with three daughters. Then unexpected luck favored her and she became a sponsored child under Panchbibi ADP while she was in grade 2. Supported by World Vision UK, the Panchbibi ADP provided her school materials like notebooks, pens, pencils, mosquito nets, shawl, bucket, umbrella, sapling, school bag etc. as well as orientation on different values and right based issues. Rejekun Rita has now become aware and feels herself confident enough to practice and also deliver the learning that she has learned through the Child Forum Gatherings. She thanks World Vision Bangladesh for such vital child focused interventions for advocating child rights and grooming them up onto leadership as well as exercising the right of participation.

References

  1. The Situation of Children, UNICEF
  2. World Vision Bangladesh Secondary Strategy 2009-13, Ministry Sector, Child Rights
  3. Annual Monitoring & Evaluation Report 2011, World Vision Bangladseh