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When Will the Injustice End: Child Labor and Rights Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Amiya, Bangladesh Jun 29, 2011
Human Rights   Opinions
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Where I live, child labor is nothing out of the ordinary. Practically every single household in Bangladesh employs underaged domestic help. On the streets, pedestrians are ever so frequently greeted by children with armfuls of flowers or books, and baskets of nuts or packets of popcorn. And sometimes behind thick factory walls or on the roadside, we see children making steel pots or smashing bricks. No matter how many examples one gives, the image of child labor would simply be a rough sketch of reality. Yes, child labor is so widespread and varied in Bangladesh that a single article would not do it justice. A look into any old factory in Bangladesh might remind one of Dickens’ David Copperfield when David had to clean and label wine bottles after being thrown out by his stepfather Mr. Murdstone. The sheer irony is that David Copperfield was written nearly two centuries ago but the very same story lives on in the year 2011.

The 12th of June marked the World Day against Child Labor. Speeches were being made everywhere in the city, and television channels were flooded with the news of inspiring rallies and protests. Strangely enough, in the same neighborhoods where social activists had lined up with microphones and loudspeakers, children were ringing bells and running up and down the stairs of houses to pick up household waste. Till very recently, adult men or teenage boys had always come to pick up the days’ rubbish but in June, we started to see children around the ages of 4 to 8 instead. I do not know if this is temporary work, something the kids do now that school’s out, but I’ve been seeing them each week. It is a real pity to see children who are so full of life and laughter toil away when other children who are about the same age, run around in playgrounds and learn about the whole world at school.

Children work in every field imaginable. They assist motor mechanics, break bricks, carry loads, weld metals, make steel utensils, break ships, vend on the streets, work in the fields, and do housework in other’ homes. These children have sacrificed safety, education and leisure for a day’s meal. What will become of these children? Without any scope of receiving education, these children have little hope of finding a more respectable or more profitable profession. They are forever bound to an impoverished world. What kind of a dismal future awaits a country such as this, a country which cannot break the cycle of producing the underprivileged, the underpaid, and the uneducated? Only by helping the children can we start to move forward as a nation. Otherwise the deadweight of half a generation that is falling behind will overpower a successful economy or a ‘Digital Bangladesh’ (a term used by the current Prime Minister to refer to a technologically modern Bangladesh that she promised during her election campaign).

Despite having ratified the Convention on the Rights of Children, the government of Bangladesh has made no significant steps to combat the violation of children’s rights. Without an iota of doubt, I cay say that even government officials do not uphold children’s rights on a daily basis because they employ underaged domestic help and do not allow access to education or recreational activities. Even the educated do not promote child rights whereas it should be the duty of those who are aware to spread their knowledge. Being caught up in jobs and school does prevent a lot of us from doing something against child labor, but the necessity of action cannot be overlooked. Child labor leads to an ugly world, a world where children are exploited, abused, and their best interests are ignored. How can we just stand and stare while precious young lives are being destroyed?

There is an abundance of non-governmental organizations in Bangladesh, which supposedly deal with the plight of child workers, but they are literally ineffective. Foreign funds are poured into these NGOs, but in the forty years of Bangladesh’s existence, they have made no real change. Frankly, child labor is a huge deep-rooted problem and a real challenge for the government alone, especially because it has not expressed any grave concern about it. So it is our turn now to act. We do not have to go out on the streets with signs and placards. Instead we should take matters into our own hands. Whenever we see an act of cruelty against children, we must report it to our local authority. If enough people show concern, the government cannot keep avoiding this issue. We should support activists and play our own little roles by disseminating information about child rights to whoever is near at hand. More young people must communicate this issue through magazines, television shows, and the internet. Most youth TV shows and magazines have nearly no content about national problems. Let’s not isolate ourselves from the other half of people. The entire nation must become aware of the infringement of children’s rights and its negative effects if nothing is done.

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