TRAID continues to fund child centres in Dhaka, Bangladesh for the children of garment workers, with an additional grant of £56,972 of funding in 2020, and £487,187 of total funding to date.
The rapid expansion of the garment industry in Bangladesh has provided opportunities for women to earn a living; however, it has also had a seriously negative impact on their children.
Many Bangladeshi textile workers are single mothers who have migrated from rural areas looking for work. Lacking education and skills, they end up living in Dhaka’s slums which are areas of extreme poverty with limited access to clean water, sanitation or health care.
Very low wages (around £35 per month) forces mothers to leave young children (2 – 5 years) alone, or in the care of older siblings, putting them at risk of accidents, trafficking and sexual abuse. Extreme poverty also affects older children (6 – 16) who are forced into work, including illegal activities (often drug trafficking) or informal jobs in dangerous conditions to bring in more money.
TRAID funding has set up two centres in Dhaka for tiny tots of 2-5 years and two drop-in centres for 6-16 year olds, supporting around 200 children and any one time. The centres provide quality care, nutritious food and education in a nurturing setting to children of very poor garment workers, mainly single and abandoned mothers.
In 2020, the centres were closed most of the year due to Covid. Garment working mothers using the centres have been hit extremely hard with no work and the centres unable to operate. The project team responded by repurposing some of TRAID’s funding to distribute food parcels to 172 families to see them through the crisis. The centres re-opened in September 2020 and follow a strict sanitisation policy alongside temperature checks for children and staff, and a twice-monthly doctor’s visit. Some factories are opening up in Spring 2021 and the project continues to support the children of workers.
Many garment workers in Dhaka are forced through poverty and climate change to migrate from rural areas. They do not have the means to pay for childcare or a family network to help while they are at work. As a result, children as young as two are left at home alone or on the street making them highly vulnerable to accidents or abuse. The drop-in centres are for older children who have started work to supplement their mothers’ income, some in extremely hazardous workplaces.
It’s a wonderful package of support delivered by our Bangladeshi partner Nagorik Uddyog which eases the burden in unimaginable ways on the mothers working for long hours and very little pay in garment factories.
TRAID funding has also enabled Nagorik Uddyog to buy birth certificates for nearly 400 children, without which they were not recognised as citizens and unable to use state education or state health-care. Watch short animation films made by the children about why birth certificates are so important.
Vitally, the centres are helping to break the cycle of inter-generational poverty through education. Younger children have gone to school with the project’s support, and the partners and employees of older working children are persuaded to give time for informal education.
TRAID funding is also providing six rickshaw school vehicles to take 45 children to and from school to address the barrier that there is no one to take them as garment factory working hours are so long. With literacy and numeracy skills, they will have a much better chance of ending up in safer and better paid jobs that their parents.
The project is also lobbying the government for better implementation of labour laws and meet with factory owners, trade unions, local communities and factory workers to strengthen advocacy initiatives aiming to improve access to education and protect children from exploitation and abuse.