More than 151 million children aged between 5-17 are doing paid work, of which 73 million children are involved in work that directly endangers their safety.
Almost 122 million children in low-income countries in the Asia region are forcefully engaged in child labour. BRAC has been turning the tide since 2012, by providing vocational training to approximately 90,000 young learners.
Among them, 54,000 are female, 29,500 are male and 6,300 are persons with disabilities.
A girl who broke stereotypes
Sasanti Tripura is a budding IT technician. The 18-year-old received an apprenticeship-based training as an IT support technician from BRAC’s skills development programme. The training is free of cost, with a monthly allowance of USD 29. A survivor of child marriage at the age of 16, Sasanti lives in a remote area of Thanchi, Bandarban, with her parents who are shifting cultivators*.
*Shifting cultivation is a process where a piece of land is emptied by burning the vegetation, and then abandoned in favour of another site when the productivity of the soil diminishes.
Sasanti lived at her uncle’s house so her father could cover the cost of her schooling, but due to poverty, she could not continue her education after the eighth grade. Upon returning home, she was married off without her consent at the age of 16. Her husband, Bhaiya Tripura, also works in shifting cultivation and after the cultivation period (April-October), he struggles to earn from other sources, so poverty felt inescapable for Sasanti.
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, her family struggled to have three square meals everyday. To shoulder the financial burden, she started working as a farmer, too.
“Thanchi is such a remote area, that it does not have electricity. Everyday, I walk nearly 10 kilometres to reach the field from my house”, says Sasanti.
Sasanti learnt about the apprenticeship-based skills training at a community meeting arranged by BRAC. She chose an unconventional trade – IT support technician. The market demand for this trade is relatively high. Her husband and father-in-law encouraged her to receive this training.
What is apprenticeship-based training?
BRAC’s apprenticeship-based training, carried out by the skills development programme, targets people who have dropped out of school, and children aged between 14-18 years from low-income households to receive skills-based training.
Learners can select their trade from 17 different trades, and the training lasts for six months. To ensure any of the learners are not subjected to child labour, they are entitled to learn only five hours a day.
Till date, 99% of the learners have been employed within one month of their training completion. 100% of the learners earned increased income after employment. The intervention resulted in a 65% reduction in child marriage amongst the target groups.
Read More: Finding forgotten children on Dhaka streets
A new lease in life
BRAC priortises safeguarding and inclusion in all aspects of its work. Learners are aware of the safeguarding regulations, and if such an issue arises, they can complain via different channels while maintaining confidentiality. Master crafts practitioners, caregivers, learners, and trainers receive safeguarding training to spread awareness among themselves and in the community.
In community meetings, a BRAC staff introduces everyone to the goals, purpose and selection criterias of a learner. Parents feel motivated to send their children to receive the training to be able to earn a decent livelihood.
“Living in a hard-to-reach area and having a support system which helps me learn and grow as a technician is unusual, but more young women are now stepping into this field”, says Sasanti.
Sasanti now earns USD 59 monthly. “My master craft practitioner, Shahidul dada, is a kind-hearted person. I understand the lessons, I am well on my way to securing a job at his shop after this training”, she added.
Thousands of master crafts practitioners like Shahidul are training our learners all over Bangladesh.
“I dream of being an entrepreneur with the training I am receiving, so I can build myself a life far from suffering and poverty”, says Sasanti.
The Government of Bangladesh initiated a national plan of action to eliminate child labour, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals. Elimination of the worst form of child labour by 2021, and all forms of child labour by 2025, are two of its primary goals.
BRAC’s apprenticeship-based training in all 64 districts is set to bring enormous progress towards combatting child labour in Bangladesh.
Read more: 30 ways BRAC supports girl children
Tashfi Sultana is a Communication Officer at BRAC Skills Development Programme, and Kamran Ibne Abdul Qader is a Communications Specialist at BRAC Communications.