The deprived children: Some empirical instances

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Case 1. Alisha has grown up amongst the amenities of a city life. She has a spectacular figure and, ipso facto, she does some modelling to earn a bit of money. Alisha is now suffering from indecision whether she will breast-feed her newborn baby or not. In this context, she has talked with her doctor and discussed with her husband. They have lent their full support to develop a comfortable attitude toward breast feeding. But she is not convinced to breast feed her baby as she has a misconception that baby’s sucking might lead to losing her figure i.e. her beautiful chest may sag. Moreover, she is convinced by the commercial advertising which promotes breast milk substitutes and contributes to the lack of confidence in breast milk. So, she has decided to bottle-feed her baby. Introduction of bottle feeding has caused the infant to refuse the breast, because the sucking action is easier from a bottle. Thus the baby has been deprived of the right to be breast-fed for twenty-four months and beyond.

Tips: Nature designed breast feeding as the best possible way of meeting an infant’s nutritional needs. At the same time, it provides a warm, intimate relationship between mother and her child which is quite important for baby’s healthy psychological growth. The baby finds intense pleasure in the sound of its mother’s voice and the sight of her face and at the same time satisfies its sucking needs. Breast feeding never Ioses mother’s figure rather helps to regain her figure more quickly. In urban areas, exclusive breast feeding has fallen to a low percentage. To encourage exclusive breast feeding in urban areas, it requires to promote the emotional state of the mother and to change the belief that breast milk is not sufficient for the infant. It is true that complementary foods are necessary for a baby but breast feeding should not be substituted by the complementary foods. In this context, mothers who exclusively breastfeed their babies are the best educator to encourage other women to breast feed. Mothers need to be protected from pressure of commercial producers of breast milk substitutes and other infant food products. The benefits of breast feeding should not be marred by harmful practices and misconceptions.

Case 2. A scene is seen in the morning, evening and at night in Dhaka city-teen-aged girls and young women, tiffin carrier in their hands, walk group by group along the footpath or by the side of the road. They are women workers. Their destinations are the Garments Industries built here and there in Dhaka city. Almost in every locality of Dhaka city, light from dozens of tube lights radiates out through the big windows of the garments industries. Within 8 AM, the factories draw those teenage girls and young women in their belly. They work hard there during the whole day or from morn to the dead of night. Being absolutely exhausted, they return somehow to their hovels. Parveen is one amongst them. She started her career as a woman worker in a garments industry when she was eleven years old. By the time, she was married and she has two children-one is at the breast and the other has just learned how to walk. At this stage she can neither engross in her work nor take care of her children. Ultimately, she may lose her job and undergo unspeakable sufferings.

Tips: According to the Factory Act of 1965, where there are more than fifty women workers, the owner of those factories must provide a creche for the children aged up to six years of the relative women workers under the care of the experienced matrons. It is unnecessary to mention that there are more than 50 women workers in every garments industry, in Bangladesh. But such arrangements are rare to be found in Bangladesh. It is obviously a violation of law. In this context, the law enforcement authority is indifferent. This gives extra privileges to the owner of the workshop. Moreover, the owners are getting more facilities as the eighty percent of the women workers are unmarried. Hence the question of creche does not arise. Though there is a provision for the carrying mother to enjoy a maternity leave of six months, yet they are not allowed to enjoy this leave. In short, the women workers of the garments industries are totally deprived of their lawful rights. So l like to suggest that laws should be enforced and the owner of each and every garments industry must provide a creche so that the infants of the women workers are properly cared for and not to be neglected.

Case 3. In 1978, all governments in South Asia endorsed the Alma-Ata declaration pleading to provide essential ‘health for all’ by the end of twentieth century. But 20 years have already passed after the declaration. Still many children die without treatment. On the 11th June of 1998 a child named Mittun of two and half months died in Dhaka Medical College Hospital without treatment. It is reported that the doctors’ typical rude behaviour is responsible for the baby’s death.

Tips: It is not only a scene of Dhaka Medical College Hospital but this utter pandemonium is also going on in all the hospitals of the country. In comparison to the number of people the number of the doctors is insufficient. Moreover, Health is relatively less well supported than the defense expenditure. Government should take active initiatives to increase the ratio of doctors to people and take serious steps to compel the doctors to join their respective posting places without fail. It is hoped that the doctors would change their mentality to engage them to serve their noble profession heartily.

Case 4: Hashi is a char woman. Her butcher husband passed away leaving behind Hashi with five daughters. Hashi wanted to control child bearing but she could not overcome a range of social, familial, financial, religious and medical obstacles. Moreover, her husband put pressure on her to produce a son. In spite of her reluctance she gave birth to five daughters one after another to satisfy the husband’s desire. What is the present condition of these fatherless daughters? Among the five older three are domestic servants. They are passing their days half fed and half clad. They are suffering from a fragile sense of security. The younger two gape for what the mother brings for them to eat.

Tips: A child whose father leaves or abandons the family is not abandoned by his mother though she has to suffer a lot. In accordance with the social systems, the father’s family is called for the maintenance of the orphan and the widow or the divorced mother has to return to her father’s family. In practice, the father’s poor family is unwilling to take responsibility of the orphan or the abandoned child. On the other hand, mother’s family may not take the responsibility of her. Under these circumstances, she with her children may simply be left out of the safety net. When a child’s mother dies, the father and his family are responsible for supporting the child. Once again, however, the pressure of poverty can lead the system to breakdown, with the child being cast adrift. In order to avoid these circumstances, it requires quality family planning counseling, above all the spread of education. It is hoped that the light of education will change the attitude of the husband and his family.

Case 5. 13 years old Mariam is a domestic servant. The child has come from a poor and needy family leaving behind its natural surroundings, its parents’ home to an alien family to maintain her living and fooding. Thus she has started a life of servitude and subservience. Her prima donna mistress expects high standards of her task, unnatural sense of hygiene, engrossed mind to her work. The mistress launched out at her if she makes even the slightest mistake. The toil worn child is not expected to complain or display any annoyance due to the immense responsibilities put on her or if she does not get enough to eat. Mariam has been working in the household for two years. By the time her physical maturity i.e. well-rounded breasts and hips have been teased for several times by the baby of the family. She always tolerates the abuse mutely. The exploitation is often so intense that tears cannot but roll down her face.

Tips: In order to eradicate the awful circumstances, we need to shift our attitude towards them. There is a saying of Hazrat Muhammad (Peace be upon him) that we should give the same quality of food and clothes to the servants as we eat and wear. Many days ago, I wrote an anecdote ‘literacy’ about a maid servant named Chinu. It was published by the Daily Star. I do not want to narrate it again. We know that a bevy of children of our country are engaged as menials in our bourgeois and high class family. If we increase our brevity and become cordial towards them, they can come forward and get impunity of being poor. We can rescue them from a life of drudgery.

Case 6: Bangladesh is one of the child factories of the world. Economic poverty has pushed millions of children to work in unhealthy and hazardous conditions. Many of these children are under ten years old. They suffer multiple deprivations. They are over worked, exploited and deprived of their fundamental rights. After hours of toil, they get very scanty wages.

Tips: In Bangladesh, employment of children is regulated by the Factories Act, the Shops and Establishment Act and the Employment of Children Act, all promulgated in 1965. It needs the support from all quarters i.e. government and civil society to eliminate child labour. To combat child labour, government and civil society need to consolidate structures, functions and resources in keeping with ethical principles. For caring, guiding, supporting and protecting children, government may create fund by levying from the industrialist. Basic education which is a fundamental right of children is the crying need of strategies to prevent and eliminate child labour.

Case six is not the penultimate example of the deprived children. The field of depriving children is widespread. It is to be kept in mind that children are the future of a country. So, we must ensure the rights of our children by taking active roles. Otherwise, it will be meaningless to deliver big talks and long speeches at seminars, meetings and on Children Day.