1. Why do these children live on the streets ?
Children remain easy targets of abuse and sexual exploitation in a country like Bangladesh where poverty, gender inequality, natural disasters as well as a lack of access to education and economic alternatives prevent them from receiving the protection and the care that they need. The reasons for exploitation are deeply rooted in the socio-economic realities of the country. Often in collaboration with the mafia, in Bangladesh the traffickers target the children of the poorest and most isolated villages, marked by a lack of information and education, by poverty and a high birth rate. Children are often trafficked by those close to the family circle. Furthermore, child trafficking is facilitated by the cultural context (parents marry their daughters as soon as possible, although child marriage can lead to sexual violence), by economic needs (the promise of a well-paid job) and the creation of a real “market” for child trafficking for sexual purposes promoted by high levels of corruption at the border.
Children living on the streets or in stations - who lack the protection of their family or community – are also targets for traffickers. The number of street-children in the region is among the highest in the world. The average age is ten years old and 56% are boys. 18.3% (i.e. 6.3 million) of children aged between 5 and 14 years old work, and 65% of them work between nine and fourteen hours per day, mainly as porters, sellers, beggars, domestics and assistants to the drivers of buses or lorries. Children who are victims of sexual exploitation are very vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), to AIDS, depression, drug or alcohol abuse. Several cases of suicide amongst underage commercial sex workers are reported each year. Although the majority of the clients who frequent sex establishments are of local origin, there is also a growing demand stimulated by sex tourists as well as the “market” for “exporting” children to India or the Middle East.
2. What is the objective of the project ?
The project aims to increase the access of children who are vulnerable to or victims of trafficking or sexual exploitation to programmes of aid, prevention, protection, psychosocial rehabilitation and social reintegration.
3. What activities does the project carry out ?
- Identification and repatriation of missing or trafficked children
- Legal proceedings against offenders
- Setting up of emergency telephone lines
- Legal aid for children in conflict with the law
- Psychosocial rehabilitation and social reintegration programmes (education, vocational training, reunification with families)
- Training for social workers
- Education, training and awareness raising of communities in rural areas
- Literacy programmes and educational support for young girls in rural areas
- Micro-finance activities with youths in rural areas
- Raising awareness of institutions responsible for implementing the law, particularly border police and local governmental bodies
- Coordination and collaboration of partner non-governmental organisations and other actors in the field of child protection
- Development and distribution of communication tools and methodologies
- Awareness-raising and lobbying activities
- Documentation and research on the trafficking, abuse and sexual exploitation of children
4. Which groups are targeted by the project ?
- Young girls in rural areas who do not attend school, who have few options for economical survival and who are especially vulnerable to trafficking and sexual abuse or exploitation
- Children living on the street or in the stations of urban areas who are victims of general negligence, abuse and exploitation
- Minors exploited through prostitution: either minors who have been trafficked to work in the commercial sex trade or young girls who live in this environment and often become the second generation of commercial sex workers
5. What are the main achievements of this project ?
This project was launched in April 2008. Project progress will be assessed after the first year of implementation.