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The Exploitation of South Asian Migrant Workers

Tens of millions of South Asian workers leave for the Gulf states in pursuit of better economic opportunities. In the process, they take monumental amounts of money from their relatives and governments to secure plane tickets, work visas, and job opportunities. But once they reach their desired destinations, all their dreams turn out to be scams. Unfortunately, they can’t look back, given the situation back home is worse, and they are the only providers for their families. Many fall accustomed to unemployment, poor living conditions, and low salaries, preventing them from financially supporting their families.

Take the account of Mahammed Heron. Heron left his village outside of Dhaka, Bangladesh, to work in Qatar. He borrowed 400,000 Taka (more than twice the national income per capita) to secure his venture.His wife, Monowara Begum, was reluctant to send him but had to give in because their “financial situation was never good.” However, Heron found out that the agency he worked with cheated him. The recruitment agency failed to find him a job. All by himself, he managed to obtain work that assigned him various labor-intensive operations. With the salary he got, he had to pay his debt. After the start of the pandemic, the labor system continued to systemically oppress migrant workers just like Heron. Heron’s agency stopped paying its workers, and Heron, who suffered from an asthma attack, was hospitalized. Consequently, he was unable to send money home. With no income, Monowara is worried about not being able to afford her son's tuition. As a result, her son must look for work without a father to aid him through the process.

Financial Independence and Child Marriage

“I cannot afford to feed my family, my kids have to drop out of school because of unpaid tuition fees, and I have to marry off my 15-year-old daughter because it is one less mouth to feed,” says Mafia Begum, whose husband, Mr. Saial, tragically died at a construction site in Saudi Arabia

After the passing of Mr. Saial, the only male figure and the breadwinner of the family, Ms. Begum found herself in a financially difficult position. With four children and an elderly grandmother to take care of, she felt it would be suitable for her to marry off her eldest daughter. Just like Ms. Begum, many families in Bangladesh believe child marriages will generate financial stability. Despite having a law that rules marriage before the age of 18 for girls and 21 for boys illegal, Bangladesh still has a 51% child marriage rate. Many families fail to realize those child marriages will only diminish the aspirations of their children, bringing more harm than good. For instance, a married girl is less likely to pursue a higher form of education. With marriage, she’s pushed into the world of motherhood, which has its own set of dangers and domestic duties. Educated children are more likely to find a sustainable job and become financially independent.

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