Where We Work
We work in Bangladesh. Historically we have had projects in the capital, Dhaka and throughout the south-west of the country. We identify the geographic locations of our projects based on need and current priorities and are expanding into Sylhet.
Working closely with our partner, DAM, we echo their programmatic priorities. This means we have projects that largely fall within the four areas below: Water and Sanitation, Street and Working Children, Education, Vocational Training and Economic Development.
Water and Sanitation
Bangladesh faces a public health crisis which the World Health Organisation has called, “the largest mass poisoning of a population in history” linked to 1 out of every 5 deaths in Bangladesh. This poison is naturally occurring arsenic at dangerously high levels in the water table. Arsenic, alongside the increasing salinity of fresh water from climate change, rising sea levels and large scale shrimp farming mean 21 million people still lack access to safe drinking water (WaterAid Bangladesh, 2016). On top of this, although Bangladesh has had great achievements in reducing the numbers of people who defecate in the open (as opposed to using a toilet), 38% of the population still lack access to hygienic, sanitary toilets that reduce the risk of illness and disease (WaterAid Bangladesh, 2016).
Our water, sanitation and hygiene (WaSH) initiatives work in areas affected by a lack of safe drinking water and hygienic sanitation facilities. We focus on:
Installing community managed wells and filters for safe water
- Renovating and building school, community and household toilets
- Safe bathing facilities for women
We work with the community to identify specific needs and run campaigns in schools and the community around handwashing and hygiene to increase the project’s impact. We also work with the local and national government to help strengthen their ability to provide water and sanitation services.
By doing both of these our WaSH work aims to:
Now with a brand new toilet block the pupils can attend school with dignity. The toilets have now become a facility the school is proud to promote and enable girls to work hard once again for their futures
Mohammed is the Head Teacher at Tirali Girls High School in Satkhira District. Despite lobbying the local government and due to a lack of funding, the toilets at Tirali School were in an extremely poor condition with crumbling walls, no locks on the doors, no running water and little privacy. It was no surprise that they were heavily underused and actually discouraged the girls from attending school, particularly if they were menstruating.
“The new toilets have meant more girls are now applying to come to the school. During the inauguration ceremony I invited the community and family and told them about our new facilities, which are very private, safe and clean.”
Street and Working Children
Estimates suggest there are 350,000 street children in Dhaka; that’s the population of a city about the size of Coventry (Plan UK, 2016). Street and working children are children who might live and/or work on the streets. Whilst some children might keep links with their families others will have lost all ties. Yet what all of the children we work with have in common is a strong connection to the street and many have some form of a job. These jobs are mostly in poorly paid, hazardous environments including picking and selling litter, working as porters at a market or domestic helpers in a private home. They often need to work to support themselves or their family. These working environments are dirty, dangerous and demeaning and the children remain extremely vulnerable to trafficking, abuse and violence.
Through dedicated centres we provide a safe environment for these children to build education and life skills and enhance their self-esteem. Our aim is that these children will acquire the skills to survive and flourish, free from fear and protected from violence and abuse. We are supporting:
Children to move into non-hazardous livelihoods and have access to education and training
Children in having safe and secure living environments and be healthier
Parents, guardians and the wider community to have increased awareness of children’s and young people’s rights and protection and help children participate in decision-making processes and have influence over decisions affecting their lives
Some of the services our centres provide are
Bianca is nine years old and lives with her grandmother in Dhaka. They both work hard to give themselves a better future. Each morning they collect litter and sell it to a recycling merchant. The work is dangerous and they often cut or injure themselves. After working in the morning, Bianca attends the Drop-In centre where she gets help to learn to read and write. Bianca hopes to attend a mainstream school in the future and train to become a teacher.
“I often see other children my age carrying their books and going to school. I hope I can be one of them in the future. I love the education at the centre and without the centre I wouldn’t have any education at all”
Everyone has the right to education. In Bangladesh, primary and secondary level education is provided in coalition by the local government, charities and private institutions. However, for children living in remote and poor rural and urban communities getting access to this education remains difficult. Schools might be overcrowded, of poor quality or far from children’s homes and some children might have to work to support their family. These are some of the reasons why 1.5 million girls in Bangladesh never enrol in school and less than 50% of children enrol in secondary education (Unicef, 2015). There is a direct link between children that don’t enrol into education and child marriage, early pregnancy and limited options for jobs when adults.
We provide primary and secondary education to children who might have dropped out of school and struggle to access education. Following the Bangladesh national curriculum, children are able to attend our learning centres close to their homes and sympathetic to their needs.
The centres work with the wider community, parents and guardians to help create a supportive environment. They do this by holding community meetings around key issues including child marriage and the importance of education. They also link the community to healthcare providers, free legal advice and assist parents and guardians to improve their own literacy.
Laboni’s dreams of becoming a Chartered Accountant are set to become a reality. Studying for her certification in Junior Secondary Education in one of the community learning centres in Dhaka, Laboni has since gone on to finish her school education and is looking forward to attending college and university.
Whilst growing up Laboni had broken schooling until she attended the learning centre. Laboni’s father is a rickshaw puller and her mother a housewife. Living in one of the poorest communities in Bangladesh, Laboni often had to stop her education and work to support the family income but was determined to finish her schooling. Laboni is using her education to provide private tuition to others, the income of which she is saving up towards her education.
Vocational Training and Economic Development
Without finishing education or undertaking training, the options for young people in Bangladesh are limited. They often find themselves in hazardous, poorly paid jobs, such as labourers or rickshaw pullers. For young men, they can find themselves becoming involved in crime or being long term unemployed. For young women there is a heightened risk of becoming trapped into prostitution or having an early marriage. Enrolment in vocational skills training in trades such as tailoring and dressmaking, mobile phone servicing and electrical engineering is especially low in Bangladesh, particularly for women at less than 25% of all trainees (ILO, 2015). Vocational skills training for jobs has been identified as a key strategy for growing Bangladesh’s economy and reducing poverty, especially as it is one of the world’s most populous countries.
Our work focusses on providing skills training for adolescents and young people. A vital part of our approach is to link trainees with job opportunities, either as employees or as self-employed, increasing their ability to make an income. The trades we provide training in match market demands, such as the 80% of Bangladesh’s population which are mobile phone users. By including leadership, negotiation and communication skills training in our courses, trainees’ confidence and general skills for the workplace are developed. We work with parents, guardians, community members and the government to create a positive attitude around encouraging young people into skills training.
The types of courses we have run in vocational skills training in include mobile phone servicing, and tailoring and dressmaking. Our focus on skills training expands to our work in economic development more broadly. This includes work with female smallholder farmers to increase their skills and knowledge of agricultural techniques, access to agricultural inputs (such as seeds and tools), and how they can better access markets to sell produce.
Agriculture is an engine of growth and poverty reduction in Bangladesh yet crop yields remain low.
Smallholder farming has multiple challenges including a lack access to equipment and knowledge on where to market crops.
For women, these constraints are magnified. This has a direct effect household food security leading to malnutrition in children (WFP, UNICEF & IPHN, 2009).
By gaining new knowledge on agricultural techniques, access to markets and microfinance, women farmers will be able increase feed their families and have more secure livelihoods.
Mohammed successfully completed a vocational course in mobile phone servicing. He has now opened a multi-purpose shop in his village: a general store selling snacks and a mobile phone servicing desk. He rents the shop space and employs two young men to run it whilst he operates the mobile phone servicing desk and also offers a mobile phone charging facility.
“I have recently opened my shop and it is going well. Before I wasn’t in school. The schools were far from my home and my family needed help on the farm. I am determined for us to live a better life. I hope that having a shop and a mobile servicing department will mean I can attract more customers. I can stay in my village now and support my family’s future”