These children will not let their birthplace define who they are
Around 400 children stand for assembly everyday at SSS-Poura Ideal High School in Tangail; of them, 46 were born to sex worker mothers. Thanks to a couple NGOs, they have a chance of getting a proper education and overcoming the difficult circumstances into which they were born.
The school was established in 1999 as Ideal Primary School, and later the name was changed to its current one in 2016. Founder of the school Abdul Hamid Bhuiyan is the Executive Director of Society for Social Service (SSS). The school also received support from Terre des Hommes, an international children's rights umbrella organization.
This Dhaka Tribune correspondent spent a day with the children to get a glimpse into their lives, and find
out what it means to have a chance at being integrated into society after being born in a brothel.
High spirits, high hopes
Rima (not her real name) is a sixth grade student and the daughter of a sex worker. She wishes to spread the gift of education to children like her when she is grown up.
“I want to be a teacher,” she said.“Most street children are deprived of education. I want to make sure no one is left uneducated.”
Another girl from the school said: “I do not know who my father is, but I know how to learn and how to teach.People used to hate us and harass us. If anyone tries something like that now, we fight the hate together.”
A project called “Child Lead Organization,” under Combating Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, a project funded by the European Union, is helping 25 children work for the rights and protection of children their own age.
SSS-Poura Ideal High School authorities said that out of 12 students who will sit for the SSC examination this year, three are children of sex workers. They have been receiving the same guidance and assistance as the other children.
Fighting spirit: Black belts, gold medals
The children are not simply limited to traditional education. Sumona Akter (not her real name) – a child who is gifted in martial arts –has not let her birthplace decide her place in the world.
Sumona has won six gold medals from 2012-2018 by participating in karate competitions in Nepal. She also holds a black belt. Sumona said she wants to be a well-known martial artist.
Sabrina (not her real name), a girl from the same school, is also a gold medal winning martial arts student.
Sabrina’s mother Abida Begum, who is still working as sex worker at the brothel near the school said: “I was sexually and emotionally harassed by the leader of the brothel. My daughter was sexually harassed when she was only a three-month-old infant.”
“I knew I had to get her out of there,” Abida said as she wiped her tears. “I want her to be educated and respected.”
Abdul Latif Miah, Director of Education and Child Development Program (ECDP), Society for Social Service (SSS) said: “Sex workers’ children are deprived of their rights, especially in terms of health and education.”
“We managed to stop a few children from entering the sex trade. We work hard so children will not share the misfortune of their mothers. They will prove to be competent in any field if given the opportunity,” he said.
A home for the children
The Sonar Bangla Children Home atKuizbari in Tangail shelters 46 male and 50 female children whose mothers are or were sex workers at some point. Many of the mothers still work at Kandapara brothel in Tangail.
Many children have completed their school education with the support of this home. The home is under the Combating Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children project. Dhaka-based child-focused NGO the Social and Economic Enhancement Programme (SEEP) also contribute to this project.
The principal of Sonar Bangla Children Home Abdul Haque Miah said: “We do everything we can to help with their development. We arrange for extracurricular lessons and entertainment as we recognize it to be a big part of children’s development.”
“Our children are studying in different schools, colleges and universities. Some students have already completed their graduation. Some of them are working in different sectors including NGOs. We have even supported 14-15 children in getting married,” he said.
Looking forward to a better future
This Dhaka Tribune correspondent was able to reach some youths who completed their educations with the help of these NGOs.
Shopon Rajon (not his real name) recently passed his Honours with GPA 3.32 out of 4 in General History from Government MM Ali College in Kagmari, Tangail, in 2018.
He now supports a family of five, including his mother. He wants to become a professor someday.
“None of this would have been possible if they had not helped me,” he said. He is now studying for his IELTS exam to further his studies abroad with a scholarship.
Shabnaz Jaherin, Child Protection Specialist at UNICEF said: “There is no noteworthy initiative by the government of Bangladesh for the children of sex workers. NGOs are providing some support, but it is not sufficient.”
“Sex workers need a social safety net so that their children can be safe,” she said.