My name is Faria* and I am 14 years old. In my village, there are my uncles (but we don’t have any contact with them) and my grandmother and maternal aunt who we visit. My grandfather passed away. We stay in the village for a week or a month because we have a paddy field there. We harvest the rice and sell it at the village market, and then we return to Dhaka with that money. My father is trying to buy a house in the village, but we have a loan, so need to repay that first. We plan to build a house of our own. I have an elder brother who lives with his wife and daughter, and a disabled brother who lives with us. I have an elder sister too.
My work is to string garlands. The girl next-door brings us flowers and my sister and I make garlands. They are sold in different places. I get Tk.80 ($0.70 USD) for one hundred garlands and Tk.160 ($1.40) for two hundred. Me and my sister share the money between us. My mother also helps us. The garlands are about five feet long and are made of tuberose and roses. I’m almost five feet tall so there is no trouble making the garlands. I just have mild back pain from this. We work from 11 am to 10 pm. I take a bath, say my prayers and eat my lunch besides working. One of my cousins also works with us. She doesn’t’ have a father and her mother works as a housemaid. She also studies at school.
I’ve been doing this work for about three or four years. At first, my father didn’t let us; he said that it would ruin our attention to our study. But we started, and my mother encouraged us. She told our father that if we wanted to do something to earn some money, it was okay. We have to buy clothes and need money for our tuition fees. We shouldn’t put pressure on our father for everything. Then my father said, “Okay, do it.” Eventually, we moved (to the village) and the work stopped. But we came back again after a few months to live in the same place and are doing this work again.
At first, my father had wanted my sister and I to learn tailoring. But we didn’t get admitted anywhere. Later, one of my sister’s friends got us work putting buttons on skirts. We gave this up after a few days because this work puts a great amount of pressure on the eyes. They would pay Tk. 15 ($0.15) for attaching buttons on both parts of the skirt.
My father got a salary of Tk.12000 ($90) per month but it’s difficult for him to manage everything. That’s why we tried to help him by working. We got the idea from Facebook. We saw that parents work hard for their children, so we decided that we would also help them. My father never tells us to work and brings us what we want.
My father is in charge here. He looks after the other flats of this house. He has the responsibility to collect rent and pay the electricity and gas bills. So, the owner called my father and said to come back. Maybe, we will leave again in a few months. We want to go to the village because my mother is sick now. It has already cost a lot of money for her treatment and so my father has told her not to work anymore. He will build us a house in the village so that we can live there. We have land there to cultivate and we can manage our family with the money that comes from the crops.
We came to Dhaka because my father fell into debt after getting my second oldest brother married. I can’t remember everything as I was too little then. Our family has some problems. For example, my eldest brother is deaf and can’t speak well. He works in a brass factory. My father had to spend a lot on his treatment and to buy hearing aids. And also, I got burnt when I was younger. One auntie told me to look after her little daughter. I was playing with my friend at that time, and she had pots in her hand. When I went to get the auntie’s daughter, the hot water and milk pots fell on my body and a large part of my skin was burnt. My father had just returned home at that time and my sister called my mother who rushed over and started to cry. I was taken to Dhaka Medical for treatment. This was about three or four years ago, when I was in class five.
My brother lived with us at first after he got married. My father is a driver and taught my brother how to drive. But my brother couldn’t provide enough money at home. He hung around with bad company and wasted money. So, my father had to also bear the expense of my brother’s wife and daughter. My father was very angry about this and sometimes would beat my brother. Then he moved away. My father had to take out a loan of Tk. 30,000 ($275) because we had another loan that needed to be repaid. My father has to borrow money. It seems a little bad. If I were adult, I would do a job and repay the entire loan that my father borrowed. But we are still young, and we can’t do such things.
There were some financial problems during the Covid-19 pandemic. My mother couldn’t go to work, and my father lost his job, though he got a new one soon after. A teacher from my school helped us a lot during the pandemic: she paid the school’s admission fee for us and gave money to buy some fruits.
My father loves us a lot. He is very happy with his daughters rather than his sons. My father wants me to grow up and become a police officer or a journalist. I also want that. There are offenses and injustice everywhere. Being a police officer, I want to reform these and make people aware. I want to be an honest police officer. I want to help people. I won’t take any bribes.
I was so happy when I got a chance to be enrolled in high school. My father was informed that I passed the admission test and got a chance to study.
It looks very odd [seeing children working in the factory]. I think they have to work because their parents are in a lot of trouble. But they should also continue their studies while working. Otherwise, there is no future for them. My parents want us to study first. I think they need to be educated and their parents should let them study. I see them on the street and sometimes, I want to persuade them. But I don’t know them so how can I speak to them?
*All names have been changed