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6 February, 2016 00:00 00 AM
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Street children in Bangladesh: A life of uncertainty

Mohammed Norul Alam Raju & Mahfuja Sharmin
Street children in Bangladesh: A life of uncertainty

During the inauguration of World Children Day and Children's Rights Week in October, 2015, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had asked the ministries of women and children affairs and social welfare to take the necessary steps to ensure food, shelter and education for every street child of Bangladesh. "No children would live on the street as the government has the capacity to feed the reportedly 34 lakh street children” she added. The Prime Minister also urged the authorities concerned to ensure admission of every child in the schools of their areas and warns that the government by no means would accept violence on domestic helps and engagement of children in any risky jobs.
According to Prime Minister’s statement, 34 Lakh street children exist in different cities of the country while the report from Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) projects the number of street children are 1.5 million in 2015 and it will reach to 1.56 million in 2024. The given situation clearly reveals that there are no comprehensive and reliable statistics available on the actual numbers, living conditions, needs and interests of children living on the streets. But the fact is street children constitute one of the most vulnerable and marginal groups in Bangladesh.
Though several acts and policies have been formulated to protect the rights of the children; the number of the street children and their vulnerability are increasing along with the rapid urbanization. In 6.2 section of National Children Policy, it has been stated that the Social Safety Net has to be expanded to ensure the rehabilitation of all poor children and street children. In addition, the National Plan of Action for Children (2005-2010) also clearly emphasises the urgent need for "education and empowerment." Education is one of the most pressing needs for the street children that clearly been ignored over the years. The role of appropriate education for empowerment of children – especially the disadvantaged groups like the street or working children – has been unequivocally established. Article 17 of the Constitution of Bangladesh recognizes the right to education for all including the disadvantaged children.
In Bangladesh major problems of street children includes insecure life; physical and sexual abuse by adults of the immediate community; harassment by law enforcing agencies; no, or inadequate, access to educational institutions and healthcare facilities; and lack of decent employment opportunity while thousands of children on the streets of Bangladesh are being denied their rights according to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), which recognizes that every child is entitled to a standard of living adequate for the child's physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development.
Children living on the streets are particularly vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. These children also endure increased risks to their safety and well-being. Many of them work, often in hazardous and low-wage jobs, to support themselves and their families. Due to low family income and unemployment of parents, many families depend on their children's earnings to survive. Children who live on the street are also vulnerable to other forms of exploitation and frequently find themselves the victims of sexual abuse, physical torture, and trafficking. Extensive criminal networks make substantial profits by engaging children in commercial sex work, smuggling, stealing, and the distribution of drugs and weapons.
Following the hardship and abuse of life on the streets, many children suffer trauma and psychosocial disorders. Children living on the streets are often abused or oppressed by police, who frequently beat them, ask for bribes, take away their valuables and implicate them in false charges. Ordinary members of society keep discriminatory looks at the children, which further
isolates them from the general Community.
In order to protect the rights of the street children and bring them out of the vulnerability, the child development centers, vagrant homes or orphanages are rarely viewed in Bangladesh. Though a limited numbers of centers/ care houses are run by Govt. and Non Govt. organizations (NGOs); however the number is quite low in against of the children living on street. On the other, the standard of care provided in the institutions also raise questions while lack of monitoring leads the questions bigger.
   Considering the increasing trend of street children and diversity of the vulnerabilities, it is very much necessary to take proper and effective steps to protect the children from all types of violations, to ensure their basic necessities properly, to ensure their well growth and development.
Rural-urban migration is one of the major reasons of the exposure of the street children to the vulnerabilities. It is highly essential to protect the needs of the rural children through implementing relevant projects. Though a number of rural based development projects are now working in rural areas such as aged allowance, social safety net, reaching out of school children (ROSC); however appropriate project is needed by targeting the children and their needs. Poverty reduction also could be one of the remedial measures for reducing the numbers of street children as parent’s vulnerable financial condition leads the vulnerability of the children.
Mass awareness program can contribute in order to change of the attitude to the street children.  A comprehensive and effective effort is required both from Government, NGOs and private sectors for the development of street children. The people who are related with the violation of child rights, torture, and harassment should be strictly punished. In addition to the NGO efforts, more shelter homes should be built for the safe residence for the children. The shelter homes should be well equipped with all the basic necessities.

Finally, we have to understand that the children of today are the hope of tomorrow. The street children are also a part of nation’s future. For the lack of appropriate care and gaps in ensuring their basic needs, the street children are suffering a great deal. Therefore the authorities should do all they can to ensure their rights.

The writers are development specialists

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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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