Children are falling victims of trafficking mainly for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC), forced begging, sexual abuse, forced labour, camel jockey, cheap labour, bonded labour, domestic servitude, sell of organs, forced begging, fishing and marriage. Usually, the girls who are trafficked cross-border are trafficked to India while for the boys, India can either be a destination or a transit country. UnsafeChild migration leads to heightened vulnerability to exploitation and sexual and gender-based violence. Children of seasonal migrants often migrate with their parents. However a large proportion of children migrate “independently”. Often children migrate due to natural disaster, loss of land or death of an earning member of the family. Along with, poverty and survival pressure, children also migrate to escape abuse. Majority of the incidents of sexual abuse happen at home, family and community. Girls are victims of rape mostly between 13 and 18 years of age. The mean age of the first experience of abuse for boys is 12.5 years. In almost all cases the abusers are men. Children are exposed to sexual harassment (including “eve teasing”) at home, school, community and workplace. They do not receive appropriate care and protection, have limited access to education and social opportunities/ life prospects and are high vulnerable to children sexual abuse, CSEC, trafficking and HIV infection.
Protection, support and empowerment of children at risk are an integral part of ACD’s work. ACD protects children through raising awareness and advocacy, and by mobilizing all segments of society, especially children. ACD supports children at risk by providing emergency help, socialization resources, education and capacity building for social reintegration and empowerment. Children living/working on the streets, children are trafficked and children, who illegally/unsafely migrate within and cross borders, are without appropriate care and are extremely vulnerable to all forms of abuse. ACD is working to adapt the systems approach to child protection to emergency and transition contexts, to strengthen coherence and synergies between emergency and non-emergency child protection programming. To protect children from all these violence, ACD has been implementing different programs, each program having its own objectives to protect and prevent violence against children. ACD organized cluster level awareness program amongst the rural community to make them aware of their rights, entitlements, reproductive child health and hygiene, child labor and trafficking, child education, educating them on the basic provisions and their participation in the political mainstream.
Socialization Centreis one of the development strategies of ACD to nurture the development of children as well as the community through a positive socialization process. The Socialization Centre started with this motive of emphasizing more on preventive approach for the children who are at risk than curative under the umbrella of protecting children from being abused and vulnerable situation. Socialization Centers are providing counseling, non-formal education, pre-school leanings, educating how they can protect themselves, educating them on basic health care, recreation, library services, sporting facilities, etc. Regular meetings are held with parents groups, Violence Protection Committee, POs as well as community for mainstreaming out-of-school children and identify the children who are at risk like situations. ACD has been running five socialization centers in the city slums, bordering areas, untouchable community and indigenous community. The basic information about the services provided through Socialization Centers is given below:
ACD’s conducted parenting education, one of the important awareness building initiatives for parents who contributed in enhancing the capacity of the parents in understanding childhood, mental, psychical, cognitive development, importance of education and support to adolescents’ special need.
ACD has been working in the region to build or strengthen child protection systems to better support the prevention of and response to protection risks and violations, including violence, abuse, exploitation and separation of children from their family. The district and village levels some interventions led by ACD and community based organizations, are facilitating a delay in marriage for girls. Child Rights Forum, Adolescent Reflect Circle, Child Cultural Group and Youth Groups are working in the society and community level to raise awareness on protection of children. ACD provided vocational training to 47 adolescent boys and girls from untouchable, city slum and indigenous communities. ACD involved children in local level advocacy to facilitate the community based governance structure to be more child sensitive and pro-active in strengthening the response mechanism. As a result of such initiatives, people’s and community’s participation has increased in reducing dowry, child marriage, sexual abuse, child labour, trafficking and discrimination. In schools, colleges and madrassa, mental and physical torture as well as discriminatory behavior has been decreased.
ACD addressed centre based approaches for children who are victims of trafficking/unsafe migration and also who are at greater risk of sexual and gender based violence. Children in a street situation are victims of an intolerable violation of the rights stipulated in the UNCRC, particularly to the rights to a home, identity, protection, food, health, education, and to express oneself. ACD runs Shelter Homes and Drop In Centers to provide institutional, non-institutional care and support to rehabilitate and integrate children who are in street situation and hazardous condition, and victims of violence.
ACD runs two shelter homes for the victims of cross border and internal trafficking, raped/gang raped victims, brutally tortured and left out/divorced women for dowry, unmarried mother, victims of husband’s polygamy, acid violence, migrant returnees, domestic violence, commercial sexual exploitation, vulnerable to prostitution/trafficking since 1999. The residential care center called ‘Anondomoth’, where rescued male and female are provided with full-fledged residential care including food, shelter, creative activities, counselling and health services. Upon entry in shelter,
ACD develops an ‘exit strategy’ becomes a core part of case management and planning. The shelter also provides services of family reunion and alternative rehabilitation of the children in different places. ACD follows holistic management system and sequential steps undertaken are:
ACD conducted seven fact findings for proper information, documentation and addressal of child rights violations cases in the working districts. ACD investigation team trace out stories in the media to verify each instance of violence and offer services as needed. Cases are also identified through broad community outreach to union and upazila level community based committees comprised of local government and citizens and referred to ACD shelter home by the police stations and court.
Survivors are provided individual and group, customized counseling to prevent the onset or progression of morbidity (preventing further trauma and counseling the present problem). ACDprovided counseling for immediate family members of survivors, including trauma counseling and social rehabilitation.
Recreational activities are ensured to all survivors and are very important for their mental and physical development. Survivors sing and play instruments, individually or in a group. Music has been shown to have relaxing and therapeutic qualities. Survivors engage in drawing, painting, and other visual arts, to develop a visual vocabulary of expression, guided by a trained art therapist.
All survivors are entitled to medical assessment and triage, and medical services are provided as needed and appropriate to stabilize health and ensure sustainable reintegration. Preventive, curative and promotive health care services are provided though indoor and outdoor facilities. This is done largely through linkages to doctors, nurses and other medical care professionals in clinics and hospitals. Awareness raisings health related issues through health education are provided to enhance knowledge on personal health and hygiene issues, promote changes in attitude and educate on reproductive health, unwanted pregnancy, etc.
Education is reached to survivors when they are enrolled at the shelter, some join formal schooling. The non formal education is offered aged between 8 to 16 years who are out of school and /or never attended school. ACD provided educational support of stationeries and school admissions to children to ensure their access to mainstream education.
ACD provides support for survivors who do not have the means to meet their legal expenses. ACD executes bail bond on behalf and/or pursue to speed up trail until disposal of cases. When a case is disposed or bailed out from State remand or police stations, they are taken to ACD’s shelter homes. ACD’slawyers provide consultations to help survivors/victims review the legal options available to them. If requires, they also represent victim in court and ACD staffs support them through the legal proceedings. The role and activities undertaken by the Legal Cell of ACD caters to the individual distinctive needs of each victim. Most of the victims are also witnesses to the crime. Though witness protection is not formally available in Bangladesh, survivors who serve as witnesses are accommodated in shelter home. They are provided special assistance to prevent additional hardship as a result of their participation in the criminal justice process.
ACD provides life skills training to the survivors so that their psychosocial competence is developed and they can deal effectively with stress and pressure in life. Life skills components vary according to need, gender and age, to include a myriad of topics: communication skills, self-assessment and group assessment, self-expression, individual and peer decision making, life planning, confidence building, gender issues, social roles and responsibilities, sexuality and reproduction, sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDs, mental health, stress management, hygiene and sanitation, nutrition, wellness and first aid. Participation in a life skills workshop is usually a mandatory pre-requisite before vocational training or job placement.
Different activities for skill education, vocational training, occupational placement, and life/livelihood skills are organized to help the survivors to find their true potential and become self-reliant. The areas of vocational training include learning how to become a beautician, learning to knit, computer training, tailoring, mobile phone repair, bag making, sewing machine repair, embroidery, electric & electronic servicing, packaging, candle making, block boutique, poultry, livestock, and nursery. The trades have been selected as per findings of the participatory market survey along with supply and value chain analysis in the local areas. ACD focuses on in-depth assessment of vocational training needs, matching survivor interests and capabilities to market feasibility, and expanding available vocational choices through the creation of gender-blind opportunities and broadened linkages to qualified training providers and institutions. The victims have access to get vocational training through ACD’s vocational training centre. The survivors who have no access to or not interested in education or employment opportunities are regularly counselled in order to set their mind to adapt appropriate skill development training. Victims who want to take up a certain skills as professions can undergo a thorough training course which includes an internship at relevant agencies/organizations.
The vocational course completed trainees are involved in different safe and wage employment and they are earning better amount then before. Many of these trained youths were also supported for job placement and some of them have started small businesses of their own. ACD supported the youths/women with the necessary guidance and seed money to initiate their businesses and social integration.
ACD organizes cross border coordination meetings to augment and reinforce with police, border patrol, NGOs and journalists to identify and rescue survivors and collaborate to assist Bangladeshi survivors with government repatriation paperwork and processes. Repatriation from abroad is both difficult and lengthy, with many verified cases taking upwards of 18 months to repatriate. ACD meets with government line departments of both the countries and visit Safe Homes for coordination development, victim identification and rescue. ACDregularly attends the meetings oftheTaskForceandGO-NGO CoordinationCommitteeunder Ministry ofHomeAffairs, Government of Bangladesh.
Social reintegration is an important and integral part of the ACD. ACD emphasizes individualized integration choices, including resettlement in original communities or sustainable settlement elsewhere. Survivor-centred principles especially are applied to integration (or reintegration). Based on survivor age and preferences at the time of rescue, ACD assists in immediate return to community and/or handover to families, or may offer shelter or other temporary residential services. Upon entry in shelter, ACD develops an ‘exit strategy’ as it is a core part of case management and planning. This strategy for integration is based on mental and physical health needs as well as livelihoods options and educational considerations, court cases but its overriding goal is to provide optimal services while also preventing institutional dependency. In the reintegration process, ACD chooses family integration as a first option and uses various measures to find the families. The reintegration process itself encourages, verifies and matches survivor preparation with readiness in the receiving community or family or in the new location.
ACD conducts community visits where the most vulnerable survivors are able to access counseling and emotional support. Survivors developed as peer supporters follow up with survivors at the community level through door to door visits where they provide guidance and emotional support to survivors. Community based organization are involved to follow up and protect them from re-victimization.
ACD operates two Drop In Centres (DICs) located in strategic parts of the cities and are the entry points and/or working place for children – railway, launch and bus terminals, busy markets, etc. The aim of DICs is to persuade children to opt for a more constructive lifestyle and take the opportunity to shape a better future. The DICs guarantee personal safety and a place for rest, and to make friendships. Children may attend non-formal education, food, literacy and numeracy, psychosocial support, recreation, skills/vocational training, healthcare services, health education and training on child rights, child trafficking, abuse and exploitation issues, job placement/family reunification and social integration. There are facilities for bathing, washing clothes, and lockers. DICs offer day and night shelter to children and operate 7 days a week. In many cases, the choices made by the children are influenced by their economic needs. ACD staffs find out what is happening on the streets and what new dangers there might be and find out news of other children or hear about others who have disappeared from sight.
ACDs work lies in its holistic approach which leads the organisation to work with all members of the community, both men and women. ACD works towards participation of youths and adolescents in reducing vulnerability to gender based violence, sexual abuse, torture and HIV/AIDS that has accelerated the awareness raising levels to protect present and future generations. In this perspective, ACD works with parents, social leaders, community leaders, teachers, local elected bodies, religious leaders gathered in the POs as well as village court and youth clubs. Through this mobilisation, ACD has developed a responsive network of people who can identify both victims and potential victims and has put in place a prevention system involving all the relevant stakeholders. Youth and adolescents also discuss and learn about the reproductive health and ways to protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases. These groups know to have a safer society, it is important to work in a concerted way and engaging boys and youths are important to grow together to build a healthy society for better future of all. It came out of their discussions that not only poverty but also gender discrimination, dowry, multiple marriage and child marriage are also contributing a lot to put children, youth and adolescents at risk to grow as responsible citizens. After many years working on the prevention of gender based violence, ACD came to the conclusion that the deconstruction of gender stereotypes and the positive implication of men and boys in the process are crucial. ACD also provided adolescent and youth with economical support to involve them in income generating activities and self empowered.
Religious leaders can play a major role in changing attitudes towards the commercial sexual exploitation of children. Indeed, religious leaders are often very influential and play a critical role in the way worshippers lead their lives due to the deep and trusted relationships that they enjoy with their communities. In addition, in a patriarchal society where men still play a strong role in community and public decision-making, the fact that most religious leaders are men provides them with still greater influence. Due to their moral authority, religious leaders can foster dialogue and set priorities for members of their communities. As they also often have strong linkages with the most disadvantaged and vulnerable members of the community, they are particularly well placed to address inequity related to societal factors such as social norms, behaviours and practices that affect access to services or fuel discrimination and deprivation. As a result, they facilitate efforts towards the realisation of the rights of the most disenfranchised and vulnerable:
The commitment of religious leaders to the prevention of child and gender based violence is of strategic importance in order to reduce the influence of extremists who hold a very conservative vision of society and promote unequal social norms which can be harmful
ACD trained 1,000 teachers, religious and community leaders, local courts and parents on children protection. 23 religious leaders decided to get involved in reducing gender based violence. ACD organised themselves into 4 “religious leaders groups”, one composed of men and women, two only of women and one only of men. The following faiths are represented in these groups: Muslim, Hindus and Christian. Once formed the “religious leaders groups” started working in the community as part of the village development committee. The groups play an assertive role as a watchdog within the community and to enhance social integrity and ensure the protection of children against violence, CSEC and trafficking.
Shaheen was 16 when she was sexually assaultedone night at her home by three men. Very distressed, she was admitted to a local clinic. Her family felt helpless until one member of the religious leaders group motivated her father to report file a case against the perpetrators. The members of the religious leaders group helped Shaheen’s father file a case at the local police station. Shaheen was then referred by the court to the ACD shelter for appropriate care and support. However, the accused rallied influential local community members to pressurise the victim’s family into withdrawing the case. The police tried to protect some of the accused from being brought before the court by refusing to file charges. In response, the religious leaders group and the “People’s Organisation” campaigned locally to demand justice for the victim through organising human chains, rallies and the submission of memoranda to the local government. This involvement of religious leaders has been essential in the support of Shaheen’s case. Beyond influencing worshippers’ attitudes, religious leaders can play a leading role in the protection of children’s rights and in the promotion of justice for all.