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Church in Bangladesh welcomes child safety initiatives

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to recruit 6,000 additional social workers to better protect children in communities

This file photo shows children employed as laborers at a work site in Jaflong area of ??Sylhet district in Bangladesh in 2012

This file photo shows children employed as laborers at a work site in Jaflong area of ​​Sylhet district in Bangladesh in 2012. (Photo supplied)

Published: September 22, 2022 08:46 AM GMT

Updated: September 22, 2022 10:09 AM GMT

The Catholic Church in Bangladesh has welcomed a government initiative to better protect children by recruiting 6,000 new social workers, bringing the workforce from 3,000 to 9,000.

“I applaud the government,” Father Liton Hubert Gomes, secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Justice and Peace Commission told UCA News referring to the announcement by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina emphasizing the importance of making child protection services available at the community level.

Hasina was speaking at the first-ever “National Symposium on Child Protection in Bangladesh” jointly organized by UNICEF and the European Union in the capital Dhaka on Sept.19.

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“The aim of our government is to build a professional social services workforce that enhances efficient delivery of child protection services such as Child Helpline 1098, Child Protection Allowances, and community-based outreach services involving volunteers, adolescent children, and community people so that no child is left behind,” the prime minister said in a video message.

There are currently 3,000 social workers working for the protection of children.

Hasina's announcement to recruit 6,000 more is seen as groundbreaking as a national household survey revealed that 45 million Bangladeshi children under the age of 15 — a shocking 89 percent — are regularly subjected to physical and psychological violence at home.

“Hiring social workers is only part of the process"

About 1.7 million children are involved in hazardous child labor while more than a million children are left to survive on the streets, according to UNICEF.

Catholic Church authorities have assured their support and assistance to the government.

“Hiring social workers is only part of the process. We will also need to organize social movements and awareness programs on child protection. The Catholic Church is already working to protect children through such programs,” Gomes said. 

The Justice and Peace Commission of the Catholic Bishops' Conference has been engaged in creating awareness among parents, teachers and other staff at various schools and colleges run by the Church since 2019.

The Ministry of Social Welfare of Bangladesh runs two programs, the Child Sensitive Social Protection and Services for the Children at Risk, under which it runs six drop-in centers for street children and four emergency night shelters, besides 20 child-friendly spaces and five open-air schools.

A total of 14,884 street children were provided social protection services and 758 children were reintegrated with their families, said Fazilatun Nessa Indira, state minister for women and child affairs.

“Some 5,229 children have been provided with emergency night shelter, 4,578 children are in child-friendly spaces, and 23,617 children in open-air schools. We hope to provide better service to the children and we promise no children will be left behind,” the minister told UCA News.

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