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Linking Young Minds Together
     Volume 2 Issue 111 | March 22 , 2009|


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Aparajeyo Bangladesh
A collective
voice for the street children

Shayera Moula and Tawsif Saleheen

CHILDREN are miracles roaming the world. Their carelessness and freedom makes you want to go back in time. Yet with the simultaneous rise in population and poverty, children are not only treated as manual workers but also expected to mature faster. From hardcore labor to exposure of violence, stigmatization and abuse of all forms, it becomes vital for these children to create a protective shield all on their own.

Aparajeyo-Bangladesh (AB) comes to the aid of these disadvantaged children. This national child rights organization, founded in 1995, offers a hand to those individuals whose rights are hardly a concern let alone exercised. Aparajeyo-Bangladesh recognizes the role that each and every child has in both individual and social development and so this non-profit organization speaks out for children in slums, border areas, brothels and other hazardous environments.

With a consistency of advocacy and global partnership, AB has been able to branch itself towards empowering children on the street, operating open air schools, elaborating a replicable third sector partnership model to improve working conditions for child labor and eliminate the worst form of child labor.

Hidden within the trauma faced by millions of children, there lie impressive success stories. One such story surrounds the life of Nasir (not real name). The state of poverty had lead him to become a lost wonderer, where, at the age of five, he ended up in the midst of Dhaka and ultimately with a gang involved in pick-pocketing. Being too young, he would get a mere percentage of the ‘stolen salary’ leading him to take part in political processions and into throwing handbombs, each earning him 50 Tk. It's when he got shot on his leg that life turned around.

Found laying helplessly in Kamalapur Station, he was taken to the nearby Aparajeyo-Bangladesh clinic and healed. Since then Nasir has been attached with Aparajeyo-Bangladesh. From a helpless child bleeding in the railway station, Nasir has now become an inspiration to everyone. He has visited many parts of Europe and Asia as an active participant of March Against Child Labor. He has taken pictures with Jack Shirak, and presented his painting to Queen Sofia of Spain. At prsent, Nasir is working as a street educator at Aparajeyo-Bangladesh, helping hundreds of children to find a new meaning of life.

Another story is that of Sohaili's. Sent to Dhaka to work in homes but ultimately abandoned, she like Nasir was directed towards AB when just a child. She is now a community worker for the 24 hours shelter homes. She helps provide moral support to these girls there especially in fighting against social exclusion. She herself is a role model to all the other girls who otherwise feel entrapped with gender and social segregation. Aside from peer support, working with HIV and children program Sohaili is also a BA student who lives in a women's hostel running an independent life.

To show his appreciation for all the good works done by Aparajeyo-Bangladesh, the British Minister for International Development, Mr. Mike Foster, recently visited an open-air school of Aparajeyo-Bangladesh located at Komlapur, followed by an AB Center at Motijheel. When asked of his opinion regarding Aparajeyo-Bangladesh Mr. Foster said, “An organization such as Aparajeyo-Bangladesh not only helps a country socially, but also has an impact on the long term development of a country.”

Mrs. Wahida Banu is a veteran human rights and social activist and currently the Director Programmes of Aparajeyo-Bangladesh. She believes that street children can be empowered by making them aware of their rights. “When street children were exploited in past, they had no one to turn to. Now they have a collective voice.”

While the rest of the society ignores them Aparajeyo-Bangladesh has lend a helping hand to the street children. Here's to hoping that the organization prospers and carries on with the good work.

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