This blog post was written by Anna Kessler with support from Child Protection and Anti-Trafficking Specialist Indrani Chakraborty.
Utsho Bangladesh is a grassroots, community-based organization enabling access to basic human rights for marginalized women and children. Since its establishment in 1993, Utsho has focused on the critical needs of working single mothers and their children in urban slums. Utsho’s work is primarily carried out in Dhaka, which is Bangladesh’s capital.
Utsho operates two schools, one of which has residential facilities for underprivileged children; four daycare centers; and a café, which all play integral parts in working toward the organization’s mission. The schools Utsho operates provide local children with an education that includes not only core subjects, but also teachings about mental health and drug use prevention. The school also runs an initiative with eleven other schools in the area that promotes sharing resources and facilities with one another as needed. This ensures the children in the area are receiving a full, impactful education.
The daycare centers Utsho operates act as a safe space for young children to go while their parents are working. Children who are not yet old enough to enroll in government schools receive a preliminary, informal education at the daycare centers, and children of all ages are given the opportunity to engage in extracurricular activities. The daycare centers also have watchdog committees made up of youth volunteers. If the young people hear one of the children talking about dropping out of school, getting married off by their parents, or another issue that could interfere with their education, they alert the daycare staff and the necessary authorities so they can intervene.
Utsho’s café is run by survivors of trafficking and domestic violence to enable them to generate income and build stable lives. The safe jobs made available through the café help to strengthen the community. A strong and connected community plays a key role in the protection of children and the prevention of exploitation of members of marginalized groups.
Shusamaj Foundation is based in the Jashore district, which is located along Bangladesh’s western border with India. Because the Jashore district is on a border, it has become a hub for trafficking and smuggling. Access to education in the area is limited, and children often become laborers or get married off at a young age. Shusamaj Foundation is working to protect these young people who are at risk of being exploited.
One way Shusamaj Foundation works to prevent the exploitation and trafficking of children is through community-wide education. The organization holds meetings with community members to educate them about the different ways children are targeted and the warning signs. Shusamaj Foundation also has a cultural group that delivers education on child exploitation through enticing street performances using different local folk mediums to reach as many people as possible.
In addition, Shusamaj Foundation runs a rights-based microcredit group that helps to strengthen families’ financial situations. Shusamaj Foundation’s microcredit group works by having participants pay a fee to join. The fees, as well as money from the organization’s loan fund and savings, are gathered and given to one member of the group on a rotating basis. This way, participating individuals all take turns receiving a lump sum which can be used to start a small business, educate their children, improve their housing situation, and achieve other goals. Since the start of the initiative, the organization has already provided financial assistance to over 1,025 individuals and families. Shusamaj Foundation has also developed a group of 205 budding women entrepreneurs who have been able to start, run, and grow their businesses with the help of loans.
A sound financial situation in families plays an important role in protecting children and youth from exploitation. Children are less likely to become laborers if their families have the means to support them. Instead, they are able to continue their education and start the process of building a brighter future for themselves.
Utsho and Shusamaj Foundation are part of GFC’s Countering Trafficking and Exploitation in Bangladesh initiative, which is supported by WE Trust.
Header photo: Children in Bangladesh playing an outdoor game. © Utsho Bangladesh
Global Fund for Children (GFC) UK Trust, created in 2006, is a UK registered charity (UK charity number 1119544). We work to generate vital income, create new fundraising opportunities, and raise awareness of the invaluable work of GFC’s grassroots grantees. Our aim is to extend the reach of GFC in the United Kingdom, Europe, and beyond.
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