While many parents in Hong Kong worry about how their children are getting on in the first month of school, many parents in Bangladesh worry about the well-being and safety of their children at work. In 2012, 17% of the children aged between 5-14 years in Bangladesh had to work as child labourers. According to US Department of Labor, children in Bangladesh are engaged in the worst forms of child labour, primarily in dangerous activities in agriculture and in domestic service. Children working in agriculture may use dangerous tools, carry heavy loads, and apply harmful pesticides. Girls mostly work as domestic servants in private households. They work long hours and are subject to discrimination and harassment, on top of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse. [US Embassy, UNICEF]
Since the second half of 2011, CEDAR has put in much attention to evaluate and reflect on the impacts and directions of our children ministry. After a year of study and discussion, we finally set our focus to encourage community-based children development projects and to provide training to child care givers and service providers. This will be an collaborative effort with experienced overseas partners in order to give children better rights to protection, provision and expression.
Children at risk are the main target of our projects in Myanmar in partnership with local Christian partners. Full Moon is one of our local partners, founded in 1997 to provide hostels to conflict affected children. In January 2012, due to the ceasefire agreements reached by the Karen armed groups and the Burmese government, the local situation has so improved that our partner can start planning to help older children/youth to return and reintegrate into their home villages.
Prospect in the Coming Year
Conflict is a cross-cutting issue in Myanmar, having impact on various social issues, such as ethnic conflicts, education, health and hygiene, and human trafficking. Women and children are most vulnerable in conflicts. Therefore, in coming year we will endeavour to assist the resettlement of conflict-affected communities, particularly of the Lisu people in Kachin State and the Karen people in Mon & Karen State, and seek protection for women and children from human trafficking and exploitation, child labour and abuses through education and empowerment.
‘During a monitoring visit to Myanmar at one children home with children affected by cyclone, I used a “River of Life” exercise to encourage children to explain the events that they believed are important in the past, present and future of their lives. In the exercise, a girl drew picture of a school of fish swimming together before the cyclone in 2008, followed by a fish left along in the river after the cyclone. At the end of the river of life she had three fishes swimming together again. It breaks one’s heart to see her River of Life yet it helps us to understand the painful experience in her, allowing her to express this feeling and hopefully we and our partner can better response to her needs.’
After the exposure monitoring trips and discussions in the past two years, according to a series of measurement, such as the human development index (HDI), Gini coefficient, political and social stability, uniqueness and the possibility of monitoring project, we have finally chosen Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, India, Nepal, Myanmar and China to be the focus countries for our projects.