Bangladesh, with an estimated population of over 150 million, is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. 26% of the total population live below the poverty line and 12% are extremely poor. Poor families often have no other choice than to push their children into the labour market. Deep-rooted patriarchal social norms make the country 4th in the world in terms of child marriage. Rapid urbanisation created by several push and pull factors including industrialisation, climate change impact, and disasters lead to high numbers of marginalised children vulnerable to child labour, child trafficking, abuse and sexual exploitation.
There are around 7.2 million children aged below 14 in the workforce in Bangladesh out of which 1.29 million are involved in hazardous labour in the informal sector. The government of Bangladesh has classified 38 jobs as worst form of child labour, these include collecting garbage, working in chemical factories or shops, working in the automobile industry, working in cigarette factories, handling goods in ports and ships and working as a driver’s aide for buses, trucks or human haulers. The majority of children involved in child labour are concentrated in Dhaka and Chittagong.
Terre des Hommes provides direct support to child labourers through education, skill training and health care. Where possible, we will (re-)enroll child labourers in non formal or formal education. We work with employers in the informal sector on child protection, code of conduct and safety in the workplace. By raising awareness on the negative effects of child labour Terre des Hommes prevents more children being exploited. Our strategy is to keep vulnerable children in school, therefore we provide early childhood education and non-formal primary education to children most at risk.
In Bangladesh, child sexual exploitation is increasing at an alarming rate. Rapid expansion of information technology is one of the reasons. An estimated 10.000 up to 29.000 girls are sexually exploited, the majority of them in brothels, but a smaller number in hotel rooms, parks, railway and bus stations. More than 20.000 children are born and live in the 18 registered red-light areas of Bangladesh. Boys tend to become pimps once they grow up and girls continue in their mother's’ profession. Most of these girls enter the profession before the age of 12.
To create awareness as preventive measure, we strengthen community and institutional capacity, expand services for survivors of sexual exploitation and advocate for better implementation of laws and policies. We also work with ICT service providers to protect children from online sexual exploitation. For survivors of sexual exploitation we provide vocational training, job placements, healthcare and legal support.
Terre des Hommes raises awareness on child trafficking and unsafe migration. We sensitise lawyers, judiciary and police on this issue. We ensure that civil society views are included in the human trafficking Country Report. Lobby, linkage and policy work is done at national level.
The issues around sex and sexuality are taboo in Bangladeshi society, which leads to reluctance to discuss and address sexual health issues. One important misconception is that information about sexuality would encourage adolescents to have premarital sex or to portray promiscuous behavior. Adolescent girls are particularly vulnerable and disadvantaged because of social and family pressure to get married and have children. Lack of accessible family planning and reproductive health services contribute to early childbearing.
In this programme Terre des Hommes targets married girls as well children born in brothels and Dalit children with leadership skills and access to sexual and reproductive health services. The programme works on changing social norms regarding early marriage and sexual and reproductive health and married girls act as agents for change and advocate for their rights.