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About the project: Our work in Bangladesh with Grambangla Unnayan Committee (Grambangla), supports extremely marginalised children and parents, forced by poverty to migrate and work in hazardous conditions on the Matuail dumpsite in Dhaka, where daily life forces even very young children to face the danger of toxic fumes, sharp and contaminated waste (bones, glass, needles) and heavy machinery. Grambangla’s day care and education programme offers an alternative to mothers and children; instead of being locked indoors, left on the streets, or taken to the dumpsite with their mothers, the children are now educated and cared for in a safe, nurturing environment. When they are old enough they are supported to access local mainstream schools. Having grown the work together with Grambangla since 2011, in 2015 we were awarded a significant grant from BLF to further develop this work and bring in partner Nari Maitree to support with a vocational training component for adolescents.

Who we are helping: The project supports the children of people (mostly women, many of whom have migrated from rural areas) engaged in recycling waste on the Matuail dumpsite in Dhaka. It offers day care to very young children, primary education and support to enter mainstream schools as children grow. It is also helping young people who are living and working on the dumpsites to attend vocational training courses and seek safer and more profitable work elsewhere, and works with parents to help them save and spend money more wisely, with an increased understanding of the parenting, nutrition, health and education needs of their families.

How we plan to help: The project started in July 2015. During the first project year, 178 waste-picker children were provided inclusive primary education and six teachers received refresher training on inclusive education. Six of the children identified as disabled and the project aims to include 10% disabled children. One aim of the project is to encourage children, once they are old and confident enough to navigate the route and the busy road that is part of it, to enrol in government schools to continue their education. Thirteen children were enrolled in the government schools in year one and the project helped 174 children to get birth certificates, essential to access many government services.

Bangladesh has a culture of credit groups, which often lead members back into the poverty trap due to high interest and repayment conditions. The project is trying to break the norm and so far has established two Self Help Savings Groups (SHG) consisting of 19 and eight women. Each member is making monthly savings and learning basic numeracy and literacy, as well as discussing issues including savings, hygiene, sanitation, nutrition and their children’s education. The women have also accessed four training sessions on low cost healthy cooking and seven sessions on nutrition and hygiene. The project is also reaching the wider community and 1144 waste picking parents, children and adolescents attended 11 different group counseling meetings on the importance of education for all. 202 children and adolescents received lessons on health and hygiene.

Another new component of the project is the introduction of vocational training for adolescents, to broaden their employment options beyond the hazardous waste-picking they’re engaged in. In year one, 23 adolescents completed a tailoring course and 11 registered for training in cell phone servicing. After graduating, 19 students received job placements. Nine trainees were successfully placed in local garment factories and tailoring shops, seven were self-employed tailors. Three joined as apprentice in local mobile phone servicing shops. All earned significantly more than they were able to earn as waste pickers. The project is working with prospective employers to maximise the chances for young graduates to secure work in places that will nurture and not exploit them.

Convincing the young people to give up their daily dumpsite wages temporarily in order to attend a training course has been a challenge, and there were more drop-outs in year one than expected. However, the project is confident that, when they see their peers successfully completing their courses and earning more money in safer environments as a result, the drop-outs will reduce and there will be a growing enthusiasm for the courses.

The project has a strong advocacy component, designed to ensure that the government recognises people living and working on dumpsites as citizens with a right to access the services that other people in Bangladesh receive. Progress has been made with regard to identity documents, school resources and access to education in the first year or the project.

How this will improve the child’s life: The project makes immediate and significant improvements to the daily lives of the people who participate. Children are in a safe place while their mothers work on the dumpsites, and their nutrition is improving both through the daily meals provided by the project and their parents’ improved understanding of food values and healthy cooking. This is significantly reducing the stress felt by mothers, who were aware of the damage to their children’s health and well-being caused by accompanying them to the dumpsite or left alone in their homes. In the longer term, the project aims to help the people of Matuail to move out of poverty by accessing better, safer occupations and improved eating, spending and saving practices.

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