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Our impact, their voices

Community action to fight child labour

By working with local communities an ILO project in Bangladesh has succeeded in removing 2,000 children from child labour.

Feature | 12 June 2019
BANGLADESH (ILO News) – On any given day in the remote, rural communities in Rangpur, North-West Bangladesh, you will see people going about their daily business, shopping, working, children playing. But, on closer inspection you will also see children working - on tea stands, construction sites, farms and in brick fields and fishing.

These working children are a reflection of the struggles facing many families in this region, the poorest in the country.

Having to work to help their families bring in income leaves many of these children little time for school.

In Bangladeshi the minimum working age is 14 years. Those under 18 are by law not permitted to do hazardous work that puts them at risk of illness or injury. Yet these laws haven’t prevented children from working.

To help families and children like these, the United States Department of Labor funded the CLEAR project from 2013-2018. The project supported countries in tackling child labour by developing legislation, strengthening enforcement and improving monitoring capacity.

The main challenge faced in the communities selected by the project was that many workplaces in rural areas are inaccessible to labour inspectors due to the lack of infrastructure, the informal nature of much of the work and limited resources.

To overcome these obstacles, the project worked with influential community members such as religious leaders and teachers to establish voluntary Community-based Workplace Surveillance Groups (CWSG).

Within a year and a half a total of 144 CWSGs were formed in 45 rural Unions (administrative areas) throughout North-West Bangladesh. These groups were supported by young volunteers who identified child labourers in their communities and withdrew them from workplaces.

With the support of the CLEAR project, these volunteers have successfully removed 2,000 children from child labour.

In addition, as a result of the project, the Government of Bangladesh has allocated more funding to address child labour and is helping vulnerable families access social protection.

Child Labour was everywhere. We didn’t know, and we didn’t intervene. Now every family is informed that they should not send their children to work."

Local volunteer

How a community Child Labour Monitoring System works

© Harunur Rashid
By involving volunteers from local communities Child Labour Monitoring Systems can identify and track children who are at risk and refer them to support services. They also help to raise awareness and change community attitudes to child labour.

For more information

Please contact John Dombkins, ILO Communications officer