2012 - Ongoing
Bangladesh; Philippines; Manila, Metro Manila, Philippines
According to the UN convention on the Rights of Children, children across the world have the right to:
- Protection (e.g., from abuse, exploitation and harmful substances)
- Provision (e.g., for education, health care and an adequate standard of living)
But for hundreds of millions of children world wide, childhood ends too soon. Many are displaced by violent conflicts. Many more are living in poverty with no access to clean water, safe shelter, healthy food let alone education and healthcare. In fact, in recent years, the prevalence of child labor has become a serious problem in many poor developing countries. Bangladesh, being one of the poorest and one of the most densely populated countries in the world; the problem of child labor is huge. It is estimated that there are 4.9 million working children between the ages of 5-15 in Bangladesh. That is 13.4% of the total work force in the country. Most of these children have no other options. Some are orphans growing up on the streets while others are forced to work due the economic hardships of their family. There is not much future for these children growing up and living in poverty and deprivation. Few will ever have the opportunity to an education or to learn skills to ensure a better life for them in the future. But just banning the use of child laborer in industries is not a permanent solution to this problem. In fact, this step is useless if the government and NGO’s do not ensure the economic and social securities of these minors. 40% of the 166 million people in Bangladesh make less then $1 a day and spend 80% of that income on food. With the rising cost of fuel and food prices, more and more children will be forced to work to help support their family and put food on the table.
Many children are also exploited, abused and displaced as a result of our conflicting world. As of January 2018, there are more than 520,000 Rohingya refugee children living in overcrowded camps in informal settlements near Cox Bazaar in Bangladesh escaping ethnic persecution in their home in Myanmar. The lucky ones will be with family members, but many others have been separated from their relatives and are essentially fending for themselves and their younger siblings on their own. The children move through the camp with eyes too old and serious for their age. The horror they have seen and endure on their journey here has ended many of their childhood dreams with stark realties. In the meantime, foreign aid has made their lives bearable in these hills, but with no long-term solution in sight and no access to education, the future looks pretty bleak for these children.
Children are the most vulnerable citizens in our world. Every child has a right to a childhood, a right to safety and protection, a right for an adequate standard of living. We still have a long ways to go to ensure these rights.