Torsa Islam: World Day Against Child Labour 2020; Voices of DCI Youth Leaders

The first time I understood child labor and its implications was in 2004 as a child myself in Bangladesh. I saw hundreds of children in the streets of Dhaka and Rajshahi on that trip, children with large pickaxes in their tiny hands hammering away brick, children working outside surrounded by noxious gases making balloons, children being barked directions to at the tailors. The impact it has had on me is lifelong, that summer shattered my manicured view of life. For these children: school is not a right, rather education is a privilege. In 2011, I first stumbled upon DCI, I read about the interventions and measures they take to combat child labor, through awareness campaigns, sponsorship of underprivileged children, providing their educational expenses, ensuring they have the books they need for their grades, and after-school tutoring. And then I took a trip to Bangladesh that summer, to volunteer with DCI and see it for myself. While volunteering at the DCI Health Clinic, which is right next to a slum in Dhaka, one of my many tasks along with a social worker was to visit families in the slum to track down children who had accumulated absences at school.
On one such occasion, we spoke to the family of a primary school-aged boy to see that he was not involved in work, as well as to speak to his mother about how she can play a role in his education, and then we spoke to a few children who knew him to find out where he was. In the end, we found him in a field nearby with trash piled high, playing with other children. We pulled him aside and asked him why he hadn’t gone to school. We spoke, made sure he had his books and checked in on the school to see that everything was paid and well. Every day until I had to leave, whenever I bumped into him, he would, with his chest heaving, proudly let me know he went to school with a big toothy grin, teeth missing in some places. And that’s when I knew, this was real, this is how we fight against child labor, by checking in on our children and providing the resources they need to stay in school. On World Day Against Child Labor, I urge to you to think about these issues, join us in our collective mission to protect these children and prevent child labor. At DCI, our vision is clear, one child a time. Volunteer, donate, sponsor, join us today and say yes to our mission!

Torsa Islam,
Youth Leader, Distressed Children & Infants International (DCI)