Dr. Md. Shairul Mashreque : The analysis of the issue like girl domestic workers (GDW) represents an early stage in our thinking. It is centered primarily on preliminary studies of several locations within Chittagong City Corporation (CCC) area. Of course early studies provide food for further conceptualization. There will be further scope for analysis of the phenomenon based on amore detailed survey. For, the action research specialists emphasize the need for benchmarking the predicaments of GDW both at the urban (pull) and rural (push) levels for surmising the magnitude of exploitation. It is recognized that this has long been an unexplored action research area in which to be working at this time with a great deal of attention. Nevertheless the subject matter addresses the central policy issue like poverty. It has deeply preoccupied policy communities and think tanks at the global level. Country side in a developing state of nation like Bangladesh presents a grim picture of destitution. Pro-poor economic growth with targeted safety-nets as envisioned in PRSP is a mere rhetoric. More the extent and ramification of rural poverty can hardly be reduced to a single dimension of political economy-income, material benefits, maternity health, and reduced infant mortality. There are other dimensions too like community organization, market mechanisms and bureaucratic public administration. The inextricable crisis of rural poverty that badly hurts countryside is a cumulation of erratic policy management that rather perpetuates discrimination and instability. Project implementation scenario bespeaks of the poverty of implementation resulting in a series of policy failure. Multiplicity of anti-poverty projects is merely stop-a-gap measure to compensate for the colossal damage done to the agro-based peasant economy due to large scale privatization under open market economy. Projected safety nets against damaging consequences of globalization and the deluge of climate change due to global warming can hardly provide for protection against grinding poverty. There is less protective arrangement to tackle post Sidre or Aile situation. As a result push factor has become prominent to increase the number of climate destitute who have been rendered homeless. Roadmap to poverty alleviation -the projected policy goal – sketched by the governing class – has turned into a roadmap to manipulation and corruption. The real beneficiaries are not the poor as such. For the leaders/tycoons dispense patronage resources to their immediate followers and henchmen. As a result benefits of growth oriented development trickle down only to the immediate followers. Bona fide participation in the sharing of benefits has evaporated in such a policy environment. The cumulative understanding of the peasant society from a series of research activities is not enough to see things below the surface. Ignorance about the plight of the poor villagers especially poor young girls continues to be profound despite much concern in development policy with crisis of crushing poverty. The content of public policy on poverty alleviation prepared through agenda seeking activities of the relevant institutions blocks the road to desired outcomes. For, there is little knowledge about policy context-environment matters, resource relevant activities, interest groups, tout imposters, social fabric and organizational resources. True, there remains a critical linkage between push and pull factors. An attempt to understand this critical linkage in the context of rural urban migration enables us to fathom various structural features that are synergistically related to provide a background of crushing poverty afflicting the poor girls. The use of girl children as ‘domestic servants is one of the most pervasive forms of child labour’ prevailing in the major urban areas like Dhaka and Chittagong. Girl domestics as children work the whole day long to earn money to support their families living in slum areas. ‘An unfortunate social and institutional acceptance of this practice has made thousands of children vulnerable to many forms of violence and abuse’. A survey conducted by Research and Computing Services (RCS) commissioned by UNICEF in the residential areas of Dhaka and Chittagong has gathered important information about the personal/family background and working conditions of girl child servants over there. The researchers defined child domestics as ‘children up to 16 years of age working in a domestic environment employed by a family unit in consideration of remuneration in cash or kind.’ ‘Domestic help has been defined as the staff employed inside the house for household work. It does not include out-of-house help like drivers, guards, gardeners, etc.’ Another survey has been very recently conducted by YPSA to probe prevailing attitudes of the caretakers towards child domestics. YPSA researchers held in-depth interviews based on both quantifiable and qualitative parameters to collect information on the area of investigation. According to contemporary research notes ‘since the root cause of girl-child labor is endemic poverty and systematic gender bias against female children, the government should provide assistance to girl domestic servants’ under social security net. ‘The majority of girls do not earn more than TK.1000; it would therefore be easy for the government to provide their families with this amount under the net in return for which girls can attend school.’ According to a recent survey ‘out of 425 million children aged between 5 and 17 about 8 million children are found involved in some sort of labour. Of the total 2 million children used to work as domestic helps a vast majority are wretched young daughters aged between 10 and 16. They are forced to do odd jobs for little award. 45 per cent of the child domestics work without receiving any wage (UNICEF). The ILO convention states that a job that contradicts with rights to education is not approved for 12 years old child. The Global March seminar (Brazil, 2003) proclaimed rights of children to education, end of child exploitation, removing obstacles to child development and stopping child labor. In Chittagong metropolitan areas the child domestics are mostly from Camilla, Feni and various rural areas of Chittagong district. Dhaka presents a different picture. Child domestics are scattered over the vast metropolis from different districts, upazilas and unions. They are originally rural trekking to the capital city in the wake of rural-urban migration. In the migration process ‘push factor’ is operative as the village girls at the peak of their vulnerability have to leave their sweet homes under compelling circumstances. Migration ‘from small villages and towns to big cities’ is quite prevalent in Bangladesh. Most surveys conducted at the beginning of the new millennium ‘substantiated this trend, with most of girls’ families having migrated to the metropolitan cities from nearby districts or distantly located regions. Some among their families are permanent residents in old parts of the cities or their adjoining rural settlement. One of the major causes of migration to Dhaka and Chittagong is the seeking better employment opportunities. Urban poor girls, compelled to resort to child labour, are growing up on the margins of the society in the state of neglect and deprivation often without education, care, guidance and affection. They struggle for a bare survival in unhygienic conditions having little or no access to modern health services in metropolitan areas. Many work as child domestics for a long time. Some among working daughters shift to garments, some frequently change their masters and some work in several dwelling family units on part time basis. Urban poverty situation in Dhaka and Chittagong has become a matter of utmost concern of the policy makers. The spiraling growth of urban population, rural-urban migration, river erosion, natural calamities, break of traditional family ties as a mark of conventional family obligation and many other unfavorable antecedents coalesce to eventually lead to t a sharp rise in population in Dhaka and Chittagong. They drift into these major urban centers from the countryside with their poor parents in most cases as destitute hoping against hope at the moment when their survival is at a stake with immense human sufferings. They are quick at finding positions in city’s pavement first and slums thereafter. However in the case of Chittagong their original home is not far off. Many among them visit village home on leave. Young girl domestics spend long hour a day washing, cleaning, fetching water for drinks, preparing food and carrying out other household activities. Not only are these tasks physically hard and demanding they rob girls of the opportunity to play and enjoy life. Their engagement in multiple domestic works does not pay them the dividend. For they are subject to undervaluation in terms of remuneration being paid far below the market rate even for their sincere service. Almost every urban household belonging to middle and upper class engages maid servants preferably minor girls. They have to do all odd jobs as if this exploitative structure were the modern version of the institution of slavery. In Dhaka and Chittagong violence against maid servants is on the rise despite stringent laws for the prevention of heinous crimes against women. Girl child domestics and female workers are among the major victims. According to BNWLA survey around 50 per cent is beaten by the employees especially house keepers; 25 per cent fall victim to sexual harassment and 10 per cent being raped.’ According to a survey conducted by Mass-line Media Center (MMC) and NEO some among maid servants who were raped died during pregnancy. Several maid servants were murdered and some committed suicide. Many young maid servants have been subject to physical torture. After being raped the pregnant minor maid servants have been socially ostracized in their native villages. They are not accepted by their families. Ex-communication from the locality compels them to take recourse to prostitution joining brothels as sex workers. Some among the ex-communicated daughters take shelter in pavement running about as mavericks. Engaged in anti-social activities they are extremely hungry in empty stomach and necessity knew no laws. They should be brought under social safety net. That cruel urban situation continues to bedevil the lives of the young daughters working as maids, garment workers and sex workers is no doubt an ignored tragedy. Even then some family members in urban areas, being possessed of human qualities, show charity to the young maids with gracious conduct. Off recent YPSA, a celebrated human rights focused NGO, conducted a survey on child domestics in collaboration with an international funding NGO like Saplanir. The survey explored a very recent dimension of treatment meted out to the working girls with some interesting cases and stories. The revelations coming out of the survey are somewhat starling: some working girls suffer a lot because of harsh and cruel treatment from the senior most female member-we mean house wife-managing household affairs. Fortune favours those working girls that have been rendering service in the families where the male heads and their female counterparts and even their children are kind to them. These sensible actors in the individual households thus give the impression that they are the real patrons and benefactors to the working girls. We therefore suggest that violence ‘as common as emotional and physical violence’ should be curbed by institutional intervention so far as girl domestics are concerned. It is the lack of empowerment and social taboos surrounding norms and behavior that prevent working girls from honest discussion and redress regarding violation of their dignity as girl domestics. (To be continued) Any benevolent patron-client relationship to the advantage of working girls is a kind gesture that should be rather appreciated provided it encourages working girl’s education. Impression of the research team drawn from focus group discussion (FGD) was that some heads of the household or caretakers or their children perceive attached importance to education for ‘determining the future of child domestics.’ They opine that side by side with educational facilities the child domestics should be provided with pecuniary reward to supplement their income including circumstantial helps. There are some instructive examples in which the employers as benefactors helped the permanent girl domestics to defray the cost of marriage. Financial support was extended to them even after marriage. In some cases emotional support went to the extent of helping their husbands to get a job in offices or factories. The villagers from poverty prone rural areas migrate to town and metropolitan cities out of dire necessity. Distressingly loss of location is resulting from the deluge of natural devastation out of climate change and deteriorating law and order situation upset the vulnerable dismantling all their natural settings for survival. The villagers especially in coastal areas are victims of grinding rural poverty resulting from climate change. This is definitely a new dimension of push factor. Only a field research will tell the stories of their migration to town. There is a variety of dimensions of push factor that operate as a phenomenon of rural-urban continuum. Trekking to cities through hazardous process they first take shelter in pavement. A phenomenal growth of poor girl children in developing countries that are vulnerable to climate change is due to the fact that their families suffered the stress of dislocation with resultant dislocation. The displaced families find place somewhere in town facing enormous hazards. Migration has now become a concern area of the problem of urbanization in developing countries. It is essentially a demographic phenomenon. To date, there has been little analysis of migration patterns resulting from climate change. We would like to understand the recent trends in migration to city. Specifically, the characteristics of the moving population that are affected by natural calamities like flood and storm should be analyzed.
Push factor connotes ‘any negative condition or circumstances that encourage people to change their situation, especially as regards migration’ (Travel Industry Dictionary, 1999-2007). Push factor is associated with the process of exploitation, deprivation and destitution. In other expression man-made crisis, natural calamities and several antecedents of feminization of poverty coalesce to create compelling circumstances for the poor to leave their native villages. In the countryside polymorphous violence, structural tension, environmental terrorism and climate change are some potent factors responsible for migration to major urban areas. They may be subsumed as a single compendium concept-‘push factor’. A push factor is a feature or event that pushes a person away from or encourages a person to leave his or her current residence (especially the parental home), city, state or country (especially of origin); organization, or religion (especially one’s original religion). ?Push factors for leaving one’s current residence include: Family conflict (such as divorce and domestic violence) or other family worries Unfavorable conditions in the current residence Parental oppression Unfavorable use of parental controls Opposing one’s parents’ wishes Disagreement with parental teachings or the teachings of one’s parental religion Unfavorable conditions or lack of services in the locality of the current residence ?Push factors for leaving a city, state, or country of origin include: Lack of jobs Poverty Unreliable food services or famine Environmental problems Pollution Drought Natural disasters Overcrowding or Overpopulation Fear of loss of wealth Difficulty finding courtship High cost of living Bullying Religious or political oppression or persecution Destructive, detrimental or otherwise undesirable legislature, Repressive culture Warfare or civil strife Economics provide the main reason for leaving a country of origin. Environmental problems and natural disaster lead to loss of money, shelter, and employment. A pull factor is a feature or event that attracts a person to move to another area. Pull factors include: More or better services in that area More reliable food services (lower risk of famine) Higher standards of living Higher income Peace (absence of civil strife or warfare) Better behavior among the people (lower crime rates and higher moral standards) More desirable climate (warmer) Better chances of finding courtship Immediate distance from family problems Economic stability and less risk of loss of wealth Cultural diversity Religious or political tolerance (living in a more liberal or less repressive state or country) More comfortable housing We propose to study the vulnerability of GDW in the backdrop of the magnitude of the crisis resulting from rural urban migration. An analysis of the problem itself warrants a delve into push and pull factors. Policy analysis concerning the issue at hand aims to look at the problematic at some depth. Thing is that the problem of the exploitation of GDW by the employers and several middlemen is deeply rooted difficult to remove in near future. The question that may arise is that is complete elimination of girl child labour as young maid servants are possible or is it a far cry? However attempt to eliminate or better reduce exploitation by the employers would not be an ambitious project. We can hope against hope. GDW needs better deal at least. And if safety net for the poor expands under MDG and PRSP due to good governance the problem will vanish altogether. We can thus safely argue that to posit a relationship between environmental factors and policy outcomes, the role of policy analysis is regarded as important. There is a considerable search for the actual impact of each factor as well as cumulative effects of all factors in environment taken together. Several empirical studies of development are much concerned about ecological settings the analysis of which serves as important inputs for re-conceptualization and reformulation. In this way development needs are duly assessed for policy intervention. The constituents of each environment factor are among the most important predicators of development analyzed in terms of diagnosis, perceived symptoms and interdependence. (Dr. Md. Shairul Mashreque, Professor, Department of Public Administration, Chittagong University)