In the bustling city of Ashulia, Bangladesh, lived a boy named Parvez, barely 16 years old. Like many children in the area, he had dreams of pursuing an education and building a better future for himself and his family. However, circumstances had forced him to abandon his studies after completing Grade 5.
Parvez's family had fallen on hard times, and with the closure of the religious institution he attended in 2020, his educational journey came to an abrupt halt. Determined to support his mother and younger brother, Parvez made a difficult decision. He joined a local factory to provide a stable monthly income for his family with the hopes of gaining valuable experience for future employment in a garment factory.
Parvez, being under 16 years of age, was compelled to work long hours, including overtime, and endure hazardous conditions within the factory. This subjected him to substantial risks and potential harm. The extended working hours deprived him of crucial opportunities to attend school, hindering his ability to learn, develop, and discover his true interests. Furthermore, the nature of his hazardous work took a detrimental toll on his health, further exacerbating the negative impact of his circumstances. Unfortunately, Parvez and his family, unaware of the labour laws and regulations, had no idea that his employment violated the Bangladesh Labour Code*.
Parvez’ journey would soon take an unexpected turn.
In September 2021, a brand reached out to The Centre to conduct an assessment of the factory where Parvez was employed after their internal audit team discovered five confirmed child labour cases. Following the assessment, the factory demonstrated remarkable cooperation, support, and commitment to implementing remediation programmes. They provided comprehensive financial support, including living stipends and educational assistance, to all the affected children. Additionally, the factory offered on-the-job training, health check-ups, and appropriate job placements for the young workers who were legally entitled to work.
Motivated by their commitment to safeguarding the well-being of children, the factory embraced the remediation approach, which prioritised the protection of children's rights. Through interviews and counselling, The Centre shed light on the hazards of factory work for a young boy and emphasised the benefits of education. The family soon realised the value of education and skills training and agreed to join the remediation programme.
From September 2021 to December 2022, a span of 16 months, Parvez embarked on a transformative journey. Recognising his previous educational background and his passion for learning, The Centre guided him towards re-enrolling in Grade 7 at a religious school. The young boy's dedication, enthusiasm, and unwavering spirit allowed him to excel in his studies, achieving commendable results in the first and second-term examinations.
But Parvez's accomplishments did not stop there. He not only embraced his academic pursuits but also devoted himself to his religious studies. Within the remediation programme, he managed to memorise the remaining three verses of the Holy Quran, becoming capable of being a Holy Quran private tutor himself.
The Centre also provided vocational training for Parvez in sewing machine operation, maintenance, and repair. He eagerly participated in this training, which commenced in the first week of January 2023 and concluded in March 2023. Equipped with these new skills, he became qualified to work in a garment factory.
On May 1, 2023, Parvez received exciting news. He secured a job as a sewing machine operator in the sewing section of a prominent garment factory that was known for its stringent hiring criteria. This became possible thanks to the upskilling that Parvez received through the remediation programme. The young boy, filled with gratitude, could not contain his excitement. He reached out to The Centre, expressing his heartfelt appreciation for the programme that had helped him develop the skills needed to succeed.
"I owe everything to this programme," Parvez said with a voice full of emotion. "It has given me a new life, and because of it, I have a good job in a garment factory. I will work hard to support my mother, and I dream of becoming an Imam and a religious tutor in the future."
Parvez's mother echoed his sentiments, grateful for the collaborative efforts of the factory, the brand and The Centre in providing her son with this opportunity.
The factory’s responsible approach towards addressing child labour in its supply chain is commendable. By actively engaging with child-centred remediation approaches from The Centre, the factory has demonstrated a genuine commitment to ensuring the protection and well-being of children. Through collaborative efforts and a focus on remediation, businesses can create a supply chain that is free from child labour, where the rights and futures of children are prioritised. This responsible approach not only mitigates risks but also sets a positive example for other companies, fostering a culture of ethical sourcing and sustainable business practices.
*According to the Bangladesh labour law, the minimum working age is 14 years, and between the ages of 14 and 18 is considered a juvenile worker who is entitled to special arrangements including: no hazardous work; limited working hours(they can work no longer than 5 hours a day with less than 6 hours of weekly overtime for the same wages as adult workers); and no night shifts (they are prevented from working between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m).