Nearly 80% of the slum girls in the capital are the victims of child marriage while 46% of slum boys get married before they turn 18, according to a survey by Save the Children.
The figures were published at a national event “Children Living in Dhaka Slums: Context and Analysis” in Gulshan 1 yesterday. It was organised by Save the Children and two reports, namely “Urbanization Trends and Implications for Children” and “Situation Analysis of Selected Slums in Dhaka City”, were presented there.
The reports said around 52% of underage marriages took place because of the availability of a suitable partner. The other factors include, poverty and fear of sexual harassment which accounted for 20% and 19% of the marriages respectively. Reasons for the rest were said to be miscellaneous at 9%.
Around 40% of the households surveyed said they had children working 11-12 hours a day, 32% had children working 9-10 hours and children from the rest of the families work less compared to others.
Speaking at the programme, Manager of The Nielsen Company Bangladesh Ltd AKM Fazlur Rahman said: “At least one family member in around 84% of the households fell ill in the last thirty days. 36% of children and 57% of the adults fail to attend schools and offices due to sickness once in a month.”
37% of the boys and 47% of the girls in slums attend schools, according to the reports.
Most of the slum dwellers were found to be unaware of birth registration. 41% of the parents do not comprehend the importance of birth registration, 32% did not know where to get it from and 27% could not afford the registration process.
Among 17% of the households with working children, 44% work in the garment industry, 24% in small stores, 9% beg, and the rest 23% in other sectors including domestic help. In addition, nearly 9% of the domestic workers become victims of assault by employers.
“Bangladesh has taken so many steps to reduce child mortality rate and creating the scope for primary education but there are a lot more things needed to be done,” said Save the Children Country Director Michael McGrath.
Dr Shahana Nazneen, programme director of Shishuder Jonno Programme under Save the Children, said: “The key reason for migration of the slum people is the state of being landless, river erosion, the search for employment and better jobs. The parents leave their children alone at home for 8-10 hours a day which is why the children take part in criminal acts, drug peddling and also become victims of abduction.”
Recommendations made to improve the situation include prevention of child marriage, addressing the needs of adolescent girls, construction of separate latrines, spaces for children to play, rehabilitation, vocational training, raising awareness of importance of birth registration and after-school support in education.
Around 422 households of 10 slums in Dhaka were surveyed from December 2013 to January 2014 to prepare the reports.