The entire world is caught up in World Cup fever – and Bangladesh is certainly no exception to that. Football lovers have not left any stone unturned in showing their passion towards their favourite teams.
Yet, often certain unanticipated incidents related to sports make us think twice about the current condition of exercising the right to play among children in Bangladesh. Last week, nine year-old Sajib got injured by a bike while he was playing football with his friends on the road. After this incident, the wounded boy who resides in a slum near Bashabo, is no longer allowed to play outside.
It is certainly true that, roads are not the place where children should play, but what if that particular vicinity has no dedicated place for them to play in? On this note, Ratul, a friend of Sajib, said, “We don’t have any playground nearby. In addition, the Bashabo field is located far away from here. There are few empty plots inside the residential area but either the place is used as a dumping ground for garbage or the owner has sealed the plot. So we remain with no option but to fulfill our craving to play by looking for alternative options.”
Although, the accident didn’t cause any severe wounds to Sajib, such incidents seem to take place quite often. The reason behind such a situation is mostly because of the lack of playing grounds, parks or even any open space for children in the neighbourhood. Even if any area has a park, it restrains dwellers from visiting the place due to issues such as lack of cleanliness, security or proper park facilities.
Currently, the North and South City Corporations of Dhaka have around 60 playgrounds and parks which are managed by different authorities. The number is clearly not enough as per the density of population and the total area of the city. In contrast, it is not unknown to us that parks or open spaces have a great deal of benefit from the perspective of public health. It not only enhances a child’s social and personal well-being but ensures physical activity through active recreation.
On top of that, in order to have a life full of recreation, it is essential for children to grow and develop according to their age. It is the society’s responsibility to create strong grounds where every child will be able to exercise the right to play no matter which social class they belong to. Moreover, children from underprivileged communities avail minimum opportunities to play. Even though our country ratified Convention on the Rights of the Children (CRC) which strongly advocates concerning children’s right to relax and play in 1990, yet no significant progress can be seen in this regard.
Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) is running a project in order to free and develop 19 parks and 12 playgrounds. For instance, a good number of playgrounds have been restructured and some are still in progress at Mohammadpur.
Many playgrounds are being facilitated with a ramp in order to make them accessible for disabled children. One such example is the playground near Zakir Hossain road. Together with others, every evening children with disabilities visit this place so that they can have a good time, along with the physical activity that they require.
Another example is a symbolic match between supporters of Argentina and Brazil that was held on July 5. Save the Children, along with their partner Manabik Shahajya Sangstha (MSS), organized the football match for children living in the slums of Rayer Bazaar.
“It has been a wonderful occasion for all of us. Besides availing integrated education and health services in our slums by Save the Children, we are also encouraged and engaged in sports activities,” said the captain of team Brazil, Shohel. The 16 year-old Shohel, together with the other children, desire to have playgrounds exclusively for them. During the friendship match, Brazil defeated Argentina in a tiebreaker of 5 – 4.
A group of renowned personalities from diverse sectors like journalist Munni Shaha, Maruful Haque, former coach of Bangladesh football team and Saiful Bari Titu, former member of National football team, joined them to fuel up the children’s sporty energy. Samina Chowdhury, Iresh Zaker and Chowdhury JafarUllahSharafat were also present in order to cheer up the children.
Shishuder Jonno (For the children) is an integrated child development program funded, as well as technically supported by Save the Children and implemented by Manabik Shahajya Sangstha (MSS). It is an initiative to nurture children living with deprivation from their basic needs. With the aim of supporting these children by providing age-appropriate care and development services in education to those below 18 years, health care services and improvements in living opportunities, the program has been working in Rayer Bazaar and other slums in Mohammadpur of Dhaka city, successfully reaching out to around 28,000 people so far.
“It is crucial for children to have access to playgrounds both for their mental and physical development. Physical activity is essentially for holistic development, and we cannot claim to be committed to holistic development of our children if we cannot give them access to playing facilities. Specific to the Save the Children endeavour, the level of camaraderie and positive spirit clearly fostered by just one well organized sporting event should provide positive reinforcement to any commitment towards making it a sustained practice,” said Iresh Zaker.
Such Initiatives give us hope that this is just the beginning of the journey. That day is not far when one day, children, no matter which social class they belong to can enjoy the right to play all over the country.