Hold-up on human rights
Bangladesh, upon the Millenium Development Goals, has shown improvements in a number of areas. The 2012 report states that the country has already met some of the goals including a reduced poverty gap ratio, better gender parity at primary and secondary education and a reduction in the mortality rate of children under five.
Despite the constant political drama, the country can celebrate the progress. What is still alarming, however, is how a large majority of the physically and mentally impaired children remains out of the schooling system, access to safe water is still restricted especially for the very poor and, mostly, the number of the homeless youth.
NGOs operating in Bangladesh agree that there has been little change if not a deterioration in the situation of the street children situation and services provided for them.
The street dwellers are still widely excluded from educational opportunities; their economic circumstance force them to engage in high risked and unregulated occupations where they are exploited and ‘owned’ by their employers. But worst of all they fall victim to the horrors of sexual exploitation, human trafficking and drug abuse. The situation is clearly urgent and must be addressed immediately, yet the sentiments of leaders are unsynced.
Attempting to be one of the rising cities in Asia, it is of course the priority of the government to compete economically; inequality however is largely due to this isolated aspiration which leaves large chunks of the country impoverished, desperate to crawl past the poverty line.
The responsibility neglected by the 'Powers That Be' means Bangladesh, for most of the 90s and early 00s, became a hot bed for NGOs, all scouring the land to be assist those in need yet the improvement has painfully slow. Why is that? Amongst many, the key reason is the restrictions placed on NGOs by the government.
From 2012 onwards the government have been actively restricting NGOs who “engaged in publicly criticising the government”, in other terms, human rights organisations who deal with the obvious lack or absence of government support for it's own people.
A large number of NGOs who saw pockets of destitute communities have not been able to access them. Human Rights Watch noted in 2012 that:
“NGOs operating in Bangladesh already face an overly cumbersome and intrusive regulatory process, including needing multiple approvals to register and to implement projects. NGOs operating in Bangladesh have to clear what the International Centre for Non-Profit Law (ICNL) describes as a process “complicated by delays and hurdles,” including non-transparency in authorization of registration by the Home Ministry, the police, or the National Security Intelligence.
NGOs operating in Bangladesh report long delays and arbitrary refusals at various stages of the approvals process. The NGO Affairs Bureau in the Prime Minister’s office often simply rejects requests for registration or project proposals on arbitrary grounds, at times for apparently political reasons.”
Incidents such as this are not unusual. This is still a reflection of the current situation.
Restless Beings got in touch with a number of local organisations who work with the street youth to understand if they felt this was true for them. We met Mr Azad from Street Children's- Partner Bangladesh-Maer Achol Shelter, they provide a shelter in Dhaka that houses and helps children, successfully giving them educational and life skills opportunities since 2001. Despite their current success, the obstacles they faced t get there are shocking. Mr Azad told us that:
“[...] local and national political leaders frequently [...] extorted us. On many occasions local people filed fake cases and police raided our premises with allegations of child trafficking, especially girls.
Our French ambassador personally visited the locality with packs of sweets and personal gifts and tried to mitigate the matters but till [this] date we are facing all these problems.”
A few larger organisations who wish to remain anonymous told us that such malpractice would only be exposed and abolished if critics collectively pressure the government.
Restless Beings have been operating for just under 6 years. In that time, the Bangladesh Street Kids project has remained our flagship cause. The project was initially set up because our directors witnessed first-hand the ill-treatment of the homeless youth in Dhaka, ranging from physical abuse to solvent abuse, prostitution and forced labour.
Despite our clear intentions since the inception of Restless Beings, the matter seems trivial in the eyes of the govenrment who have left our NGO status pending. We have shown the utmost transparency and patience when dealing with documents and beaurocracies but were met with the audacity of some to ask for 'incntives' to speed the process along.
Like many of the organisations fighting for the weak, Restless Beings has no intention of wavering in the challenge of expanding into the Restless Beings Village. Restless Beings' aim to obtain the NGO status will continue.
To all the donors, sponsors and supporters, our gratitude will never wain. Your unending support for the project will ensure the future of the street children is brighter and hopeful.
The Village will ensure that the children housed will be in safe and comfortable accommodation, have access to a school providing basic primary and secondary education, a playground area, a fishery where children can breed fish to sell to the local markets as well as counselling services.
Your donation and awareness is still so crucial.
So what can you do?