Drying cowhide is a laborious job. You need to continuously turn the hide, stand by it to ensure they are not stolen or damaged by anyone. All of this is in the scorching heat in the summer.
In my new role as lead community mobiliser for CLARISSA, I explored the lanes of Hazaribag slum neighbourhood. I met families living in extreme poverty. Living hand to mouth, children straying around without food, clothes, and older people fading away.
The most alarming reality I experienced was seeing children in engaging in serious exploitative and hazardous leather industries. Children taking on the burden of poverty, because their families are left without any other choices. Their dawn starts with hunger and ends with it.
Living in a disease chamber
While conducting the CLARISSA household census I met a woman who explained “nijer chamra shukaia gorur chamra shukai” (we dry the cowhide while our skin dries in the sun).
In the houses in the area you will find that 8-10 persons dwell in a 17 feet X 10 feet house. The house itself a ‘disease chamber’ as there is little or no ventilation in the room.
Children are brought up without proper food, nutrition, education, and entertainment. All of which are seriously important for the child’s development. While talking to a boy of 12-13 years old, the boy said: “saradin kaj koira sondhae khai tailei shukh” (I work hard all day to get to eat my dinner – that’s the happiness). How sad that a child’s happiness is rested only on one meal.
While talking to the father of a teenage boy engaged in the leather industry, the father said “what he would eat if he did not work and just studied”. He further said that “neither Allah nor the government belongs to the poor”.
This story represents the life story of majority of the individuals of the Balurmath and Gojmohol areas where the CLARISSA Bangladesh team the census.
Implementing a cash plus intervention
Child labourers in Gojmohol and Balurmath are constantly deprived of a better life. They are caught in the poverty trap.
In my role with CLARISSA Bangladesh, I am hopeful that the unconditional cash transfer, cash plus, and cash++ intervention of the CLARISSA Bangladesh project will generate innovative solutions. It is only working with children and families to identify the drivers of the worst forms of child labour that we can identify the pathways out of poverty.