|Project in brief||Bangladesh is the most populated country in the world, with 161 million people, including 63 million children. 17.6% of the population (28 million people) lives in extreme poverty on less than $1.25 a day, and access to basic services such as healthcare and education is very limited for the most vulnerable sectors of society. Urbanisation has steadily increased, with more and more families seeking work opportunities in the country’s cities. It is estimated that 5 million people live in slums. Access to basic essential services in such communities is scarce. Children growing up in Dhaka’s slum areas are denied their basic rights. Children living in slum areas are particularly at risk of communicable diseases because of a lack of clean water and sanitation, and limited understanding of good health practices. Medical services in urban slums are delivered at a cost and most slum dwellers rely on advice from medicine sellers. Bangladesh has one of the highest rates of child-marriage in the world. Nearly two-thirds of adolescent girls are married (10-19 years).
A recent study conducted by Save the Children found that more than 50% of slum children were functionally illiterate1. Poor education and poverty drives many children into work at a young age in poorly paid and hazardous jobs. Most children in slum areas live with their parents, however they are still extremely vulnerable to abuse and exploitation, including child labour, violence, physical and psychological abuse. Parents are often unaware of a child’s protection needs and child survivors of abuse rarely access protective, legal or recovery services as none exist in slums. Children living in slum areas have no opportunities to participate in the issues that affect them. Children have no opportunity to raise their voice and engage with decision makers within the government and civil society.
One of the greatest barriers to improving the situation for families living in slum areas is the government’s failure to recognise these are formal communities which require policies and development plans. Very limited data exists on the situation for families in urban areas2, and the government is reluctant to invest in these areas in case it promotes further urban migration. Whilst Bangladesh has made huge strides in development for rural communities, more work needs to be undertaken to advocate for the importance of government investment in urban development, if all children are to attain their rights.
Governance situation in urban areas:
The key ingredient of sustainable urban development is good governance, especially through the local urban governments. Therefore steps should be taken to develop authority and power from the centres to the City Corporations and paurashava level and strengthen the capacity and capability of these local bodies to interact effectively with urban citizens and meet their needs within strategic frameworks set by the government. Good urban governance envisages effective leadership of the elected representatives of City Corporations and Paurashavas with participation of the municipal officials, the central government agencies at the local level, the private sector, NGOs, civil society and the people. (National Urban Sector Policy 2011 (Draft) developed by the Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives). Related sections in National Urban Sector Draft Policy which contributes to our work are:
Urban Governance (5.20): Devolution of authority and power from the Centre to the Local urban Authorities. Capacity building of local government. Establishing transparency and accountability of the local government. Institutional reforms for better urban governance. Formulate City Corporation’s city development committee and Paurashavas development committee. Infrastructure and Services (5.9): Provision of urban infrastructure and services. Urban local Finance and resource mobilization (5.4): Government should formulate strategies for strengthening of urban local institutions to raise their own funds. Local authorities should be entitled to share of tax received by the central government from local industrial and other establishment. Health and education (5.11): Ensure implementation of universal free and compulsory education at primary level and free secondary education for girls. Provision of free healthcare for the underserved population with emphasis to the special health needs of women and children .Urban Children, Aged, the Disabled and Street children and Scavengers (5.14): Urban plan should keep adequate provision for the healthy and development of children of all income groups. The local government body should design and implement regular survey of deprived groups in urban areas to keep track numbers, origin and location of street children and other disadvantaged groups or individuals. Improve social, educational and health services and housing for children. Take measures in physical planning of cities and buildings for the disabled. Enhance the protection for children from all forms of abuse. Extend services for children of working mothers. Enforce laws for dealing child labour. Promote program to eliminate malnutrition. Remove social exclusion of street children and scavengers the aged and disabled. In accordance to the commitment of PRSP government /city authority will provide shelter for children, scavengers, aged and the disabled who are in needs of support.
According to the City Corporation Law 2009, Local Government (Municipality) Act 2009, Local Government (City Corporation) (Amended Act) 2011 City Corporations have compulsory functions such as registration of births, deaths3and marriages. Optional functions include maintenance of educational institutions, recreational and cultural facilities, actions for poverty reduction. The municipalities are supposed to develop 10 standing committees out of which “Women and Children standing Committee” is directly responsible for dealing with children’s issues and can influence other standing committees to be child-friendly. All service providing institutions, such as schools, hospitals/ clinics must be registered with the municipality. Municipality is also responsible for awareness raising on socially meaningful and significant issues.