Sonar Bangla Children Home: An exceptional initiative -The Asian Age

A group of children are seen staging a theatre show styled `Alor Pothojatri' (the travelers' towards enlightenment) which reflects overcoming the odds against social stigma, protesting incidents of child rights violation. It was a scenario of Sonar Bangla Children Home (SBCH) at a falling afternoon in Tangail. 

SBCH has become a heaven to chasing dreams for the children of sex workers which is a substantial and commendable effort of Society for Social Service (SSS) and Netherlands-based development organization Terre des Hommes Neth-erlands with a fund of the European Union under Combating Commercial Sexual Exploitation  of Children (CCSEC) Project.

Established in 1999, Sonar Bangla Children Home stands on 9.5 acres of land.  In 2001, a two-storied building was founded with support of Terre des Hommes Netherlands. The home authority with the direct supervision of SSS, is making efforts in various productive works including fisheries, poultry and cattle farming, vermicomposting and different agro-farming. 

Presently, 84 children reside in this home while 42 girls and 42 boys are receiving formal education in different classes of schools, colleges at Mogra union in Tangail District. Till now, 366 children have got admitted here. Some of them are studying at universities as well. Of them, 14 have been successfully rehabilitated and rest of them (excluding 84 children) have dropped out.      

A budding CLO (Child Led Organization) group has been formed and groomed up in Sonar Bangla Children Home to create future leadership demanding rights of children of sex workers to the concerned authority. CCSEC project nourishes them by providing different child friendly services in holistic approach. A sense of accomplishment was found among the CLO  children in education, advocacy efforts, sports, cultural activities like theatre performance and playing music.

A Karate group of SBCH has already bagged a good number of awards at home and abroad. The group took part Mt. Everest Open International Karate Championship in Nepal as well as won gold and bronze medal.   Kaniz Rabeya, a residential teacher of Sonar Bangla Children Home added, every child of the home lives happily and they are much dreamful and confident about their future.    

SSS Pouro Ideal High School for the children of sex workers and ostracized, neglected people of Tangail including outcast community is another great work of SSS and Terre des Hommes Netherlands. Children from opulent families in Tangail city are also receiving education besides the marginalized children here. This school was set up in 1999 at Horijon Palli of the town funded by Terre des Hommes Netherlands where students can enroll at play group continuing class nine. There are 416 students and 23 teachers in school while different creative educational equipment are available here for children.

In addition, another Child Led Organization (CLO) group formed in school are also taught rights based disciplines such as sexual and reproductive health issue, making child led advocacy efforts in order to help them developing as changemakers in society. A good number of students of this school are currently majoring at various colleges-universities in Tangail and Dhaka.   

Fazlul Karim Khan, principal, SSS Pouro Ideal School quoted this correspondent that this school owns appropriate educational equipment, especially for the children. There are well decorated classrooms, a computer laboratory installing 15 computers, play room, artistic wall painting and play ground in front of the school. It functions as child care system as well. Students explore the education system of the school with a lot of enjoyment, entertainment and extra-curricular activities.    

On a brighter note, a female student of the school has been appointed as teacher of Bangla subject of the same school. Expressing her feelings, Puja Rani Horijon, the teacher said, "I am lucky that I studied in this school and now working here." 

Mohammad Jubayer, SSS Project Coordinator, looks after the school and Sonar Bangla Children Home. Abdul Hamid Bhuiyan, Executive Director of Society for Social Service (SSS) said, `I always wish to do something for the wellbeing of the rootless people. I think as a human being, I have some social and moral responsibilities to the society. That's why, I, along with some soulful persons had established the school and home for the children of brothels and other low caste community in Tangail.'

Talking to the Asian Age, Abdul Latif Miah, Director, Education and Child Development Programme (ECDP), SSS, said, `At present, donor agencies like Terre des Hommes Netherlands and the European Union are helping our works by providing a portion of funds. Their generous contribution also has encouraged us to do more for the betterment of the children of brothels. SSS never hesitates to contribute in the project to meet up the needs of additional fund in accordance with the requirement of the children.'

Stressing on Bangladesh National Children Act 2013, Kartick Chandra Mandal, Programme Specialist-Research and Knowledge Management, Terre des Hommes Netherlands said, `Article 77 (1) does not allow a child to reside or enter in to brothel. It specifically mentions role of concern authority in this regard. Article 77 (2) stipulates sanctions punishment for violating such law. In absence of proper enforcement of such law, the initiative undertaken by SSS and its partners is really laudable.            
Besides, providing an integral and holistic care, children under the project are psychosocial counseling services provided by Breaking the Silence (BTS) relieving mental trauma they have. Through these interventions a number of children have been reintegrated in to mainstreamed society through providing education, leadership training and job placement. Thus, the interventions are addressing one of the important obligation of the government of Bangladesh.'       
Mentionable, CCSEC project is a consortium initiative of Terre des Hommes Netherlands working at Dhaka and Tangail which aims to contribute to the elimination of commercial sexual exploitation of children in Bangladesh. Social and Economic Enhancement Programme-SEEP functions as Secretariat of this project. The action is shaping the future of red light kids where perhaps one day, no more children would have to expose commercial sexual exploitation.