‘Made in Bangladesh’ are the three words stitched onto the back of clothing exported from Bangladesh’s garment factories. These three words bring pride to Bangladeshis living in the West, but many fail to acknowledge the hard work that goes behind the making of these clothes. This hard work is accompanied by poor wages, hazardous working conditions, and poor safety regulations. One of the many victims of these practices are children, who make up a significant portion of Bangladesh’s workforce. Many of Bangladesh’s exports are made using the blood, sweat, and tears of Bangladeshi children.
Jahangir, a 10-year-old boy from Dhaka, works a full shift at a sultry glass factory. He must endure the unbearable flames of the furnace, the low wage, and the safety risks that come with working with glass. He lives in the factory with his mother and sister, and all three live barefoot in a place filled with shards of glass.
“If I had a home, then I wouldn’t have needed to work. I could’ve gone to school and my mom would’ve worked,” Jahangir says. When asked why his mother wanted him to work at a glass factory, he revealed that it’s to fight hunger.
A study done on 80 children by sociologist MD Abdul Ahad and other researchers at Sylhet Agricultural University revealed that most of the children worked as farmers, mechanics, welding workers, rickshaw pullers, and construction workers. Only 7.5% of the children were educated up to secondary school, while 32.5% didn’t have any educational qualifications. 71.25% of the children’s fathers have no educational qualifications and 77.5% of their mothers don’t, proving that uneducated parents and poor education opportunities play a significant role in the rise of child labor. Another significant factor is poverty. 97.5% listed it as a high or very high factor in their decision to join the workforce. These two reasons are accompanied by other reasons, such as trouble at home, parental debt, the high cost of education, and early marriage.
The Bangladeshi government understands that reducing poverty is a promising start for combating child labor. Since 2002, the government has paid stipends to primary school students, helping them prioritize their education and avoid the need to settle for child labor. Beyond the buildings of the Bangladeshi government, many non-profit organizations have worked to accomplish the same objectives. The Alor Pothe Nobojatray (APON) Foundation, for example, is dedicated towards “enlightening and improving the lives of the economically and socially deprived members of the community.” The organization’s programs include basic education for underprivileged children and transitional shelter for street children, two issues currently faced by children in the workforce. Another organization with similar goals is the Local Education and Economic Development Organization (LEEDO), which was started by a group of social and human rights activists in Dhaka. Their aim is to “improve the life chances of children forced to live in extreme difficulties on the streets and also to address the needs of the growing number of vulnerable street children in Bangladesh.” To survive homelessness, many children get involved in early labor, terrorist activities, and drug dealing. In order to create a prosperous Bangladesh, the mental health and safety of these children must be secured.
About us: Leedo Street Children: Dhaka, Bangladesh. LEEDO Street Children. (2020, December 10). Retrieved September 30, 2021, from https://leedobd.org/?page_id=34.
Ahad, Md Abdul, Mitu Chowdhury, Yvonne K. Parry, and Eileen Willis. 2021. Urban Child Labor in Bangladesh: Determinants and Its Possible Impacts on Health and Education. Social Sciences 10: 107. https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci 10030107
APON Foundation: Nonprofit organization. APON Foundation | Nonprofit Organization. (n.d.). Retrieved September 30, 2021, from http://www.aponfoundation.org/basic-program.html.
Elms, Deborah."A Helping Hand? Eliminating Child Labor in Bangladesh's Garment Industry." SAGE Business Cases. London: SAGE Publications, Inc., 2021. 27 Aug 2021, doi: https://www.doi.org/10.4135/9781473968530.
“Where Children Must Work.” YouTube, uploaded by BBC, 15 April 2010, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dJiOSuG9gZ4&t=229s