We spoke to A.Z.M Shakil Fardous (Dhaka Ahsania Mission), a participant from workshop 1 of our core skills programme about his work with street children in Dhaka. Shakil stood out particularly for his passion and high energy approach to work. It was clear that he found working with street children to be a very rewarding pursuit, and this led me to take a moment to learn more.
Shakil identifies street children as one of the most vulnerable groups in Bangladesh. First of all, rapid urbanisation and economic development has created an environment where the number of children on the streets is increasing. Though exact figures are lacking, a 2011 study assisted by the government estimated that there were around 3.4 million street children living in Bangladeshi cities. As this number grows, the resources and time given to fixing the problem struggle to keep up.
Street children have a very dangerous future, Shakil describes it as “a chain”. If a child is in the street, they may feel more independent. There are no longer adults constantly imposing rules and expectations upon the child, and they perhaps enjoy the initial feelings of liberty that come with their situation. They can do what they want – and this leads to poor choices. What is especially dangerous for the children is that people may decide to exploit their independence by manipulating them into criminal activities, and many soon turn to crime (where they feel empowered). The implication of this for overall crime and violence figures is clear; children that live such a life are more likely to grow up to be antisocial adults. As such, the work that Dhaka Ahsania Mission (DAM) does reaches to every corner of Bangladeshi society.
Through their work, NGO staff such as Shakil are saving children from the pull of a violent, criminal life. And by intervening sooner rather than later, overall crime and delinquency figures can be lowered by bringing some order and care to these children’s lives.