Enactment of a law and its implementation, along with changed social mindset are required to properly address plight of the country's child domestic workers, speakers said at a roundtable yesterday.
They said employment of children as domestic workers could be reduced through facilitating and improving livelihood of their poor parents.
Bangladesh Shishu Adhikar Forum (BSAF) arranged the roundtable on “Situation of Child Domestic Workers and Human Rights: Protection, Challenges and Way Forward” at The Daily Star Centre in the capital.
The speakers also stressed the need for adding child domestic work in the list of hazardous works for children, to alleviate it.
Referring to a 2005 study by Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies, child protection specialist Sharfuddin Khan said about thirty lakh people were working as domestic help in Bangladesh.
Of them, 83 percent were girl children and young women, he said, while presenting a paper on the topic.
On the other hand, Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics data shows the estimated number of child domestic workers was 3.31 lakh in 2006 in the country, he added.
Study has found that almost all child domestic workers got three meals a day. However, about one-third of them did not get meals timely, he further said.
Addressing as chief guest, eminent rights activist Sultana Kamal said despite concerns, problems of child domestic workers were not prioritised.
“Why are we failing to give priority to the rights of children, especially those who work as domestic help? This is because they are facing the rich,” she observed.
“Either we have subconsciously established in our minds that we will not do it [enacting the law], or we consciously do not do it because we have to save a certain group,” she added.
Sultana also said rights activists will continue to be vocal until rights of the oppressed are ensured.
BSAF Chairperson Khawja Shamsul Huda said household work are now easier to do than in the past, because of technological advancement.
Alongside this, if mindset of the employers is changed then concerns over such issue may not be raised in future anymore, he said.
Mostafizur Rahman, joint inspector general of Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments, said the government has formulated the “Domestic Workers Protection and Welfare Policy 2015” to protect interests of domestic workers.
The department is committed to end hazardous domestic work, he said.
However, enactment of a law in line with the policy and formal recognition of domestic work will be helpful to this end, he added.
Tomoko Uchiyama, country director of Shapla Neer Bangladesh; Mahmudul Kabir, country director of Terre des Hommes Netherlands; and Abdus Shahid Mahmood, director of BSAF, among others, spoke.