The Streets That Stole the Childhoods of 600,00
“More than 600, 000 street children are living in Bangladesh…”
*Of the estimated street children living in Bangladesh, 380,000 of those children are between the ages of 5 and 14.
- The streets of the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka - is home to more than half of these kids. The RB team based in Bangladesh recently conducted interviews with the children in Kamlapur Station, Dhaka and Cox’s Bazar – they were asked about their life on the street. The interviews reveal the shocking and sad reality that these children live through.
“… The pavement is their bed and the sky? Their roof, leaving them vulnerable, even whilst sleeping.”
The interviews conducted in Kamalpur Station have given those of us lucky enough to have a home to go to a second-hand insight as to just how horrible, distressful and difficult the lives of the children are. Deprived of the most basic of necessities, they lead lives no child should have to.
“7-Year-old Alamin found himself running away from a home of abuse.”
Many are the bread-winners of their family, children as young as 5 years old are found travelling from far away villages in hopes of supporting their loved ones financially. Most are found attempting to earn a living by begging, collecting garbage, working as a porter and/or collecting plastic bottles. If this wasn’t enough, their treatment by members of the public is out-right inhumane: the street children are regarded as less than, often victim to mistreatment and abuse for trying to earn an honest living.
“10-year-old Ibrahim fell victim to an electric shock accident, which lead to the amputation of both of his legs. Despite this, his mother was forced to send him out to beg, due to their dire poverty.”
Ibrahim has faced trauma after trauma, the loss of his limbs and his right to childhood is more than most of us can bear, but he is not alone. There are countless like him, children forced to leave their families behind in hopes of pulling them out their dire financial circumstances, left to come and beg at the station.
“Despite having to deal with the burden of not only surviving the street, but also being the breadwinner of their families, the children of Cox’s Bazar still somehow put on a happy face.”
The interviews conducted in Cox’s Bazar highlighted the differences in the lives of the street children in Dhaka from those in Cox’s Bazar. Whilst the children expressed joy in what they were doing, those who work the world’s longest beach also act as the breadwinners of their family. Selling eggs, balloons, garlands and sea-shells, the children of Cox’s Bazar give up their education and childhood, hoping to support and provide for their families.
After her father passed away, 11 -year-old Taniya stopped going to school and sends her earnings from the beach to her family.
Taniya has been selling flower garlands on the beach for the past three years. Despite being a bright and studious girl, her circumstances forced her to give up her education, so she would be able to take on her late father’s role as provider. Every child should have the right to an education, but for children on the street like Taniya, just being able to have hopes and aspirations is a privilege itself.
9-year-old Shuborna’s father is sick. Every morning, she makes her way to the beach and works long hours, so she can afford her father’s medicine.
Shuborna, despite expressing her strong desire to continue studying, prioritises her father’s health above all else. Her desperate circumstances do not allow her to dream and achieve, rather they force her to make her way to the beach every day and sell balloons to tourists, she cannot let her father down.
The mental and physical tribulations these children go through are heartbreaking.
The interviews conducted both in Dhaka and Cox’s Bazar show the awful situation that these children are going through both physically and mentally. It is heart-breaking that all these children are deprived of an education and forced by circumstance to grow up before their time. These children not only bear the heavy burden of having to survive the streets and the burden of providing at such a young age, but they are also exposed to the myriad of risks due to lack of adequate shelter, education, family support and health facilities.