Children, left behind by women migrant workers, lack family care, exposing them to different types of vulnerability including abuse.
In absence of mothers, they are forced to take on an extra workload; many times they cannot continue education and experience early marriage. Children especially those in remote areas are more vulnerable, insiders have said.
So, remittances sent by women migrant workers are hardly being utilised effectively in human resources development. Necessary policy support, awareness and counselling are badly needed for left-behind families to overcome the problems, they said.
During a recent visit to Char Shalepur in Faridpur district, the FE correspondent came to know that women from almost every house are staying abroad. Char Shalepur is home to nearly 8,000 people and half of them are women.
When wives go abroad, husbands take on responsibility for the care of families and children. But in most cases, they don't perform their duties properly as they spend time idly.
Under such circumstances, children are forced to take on heavy workload including household chores. Even they don't get proper healthcare if fall sick and feel loneliness in absence of parent's company. Besides, girl children are at risk of sexual abuse.
Ovibashi Karmi Unnayan Program (OKUP), a community-based organisation, is working on left-behind children of women migrant workers at Char Shalepur.
Its community mobiliser Lizu Aktar said about 90 per cent of women from this Char has gone abroad with jobs especially in Jordan, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.
Citing their analysis, she said most of women go abroad to change their economic condition through human resources development. But they hardy can achieve the target due to lack of cooperation from their families.
Husbands spend time idly after sending their wives abroad. They neither pay attention to income generating activities nor take care of children. Many others also waste time playing cards and taking drugs.
Ms Aktar said as it is a remote area, problems are acute here. Education and healthcare facilities are insufficient. Road communication is not easy with the district town. So, when parents do not take care of their children, they become very much helpless.
Talking to this correspondent, Foziron Aktar, a woman migrant working in the United Arab Emirates, said she went abroad mainly to pay tuition fees of her son.
"When I was at home, I struggled hard as I had no money. I could not pay tuition fees," she added.
But her dream was shattered as her husband stopped education of her son when he was in six-grade.
"My son was very meritorious student. I requested my husband not to stop his schooling. But he did not consider my request," she mentioned.
"Why have I been working hard for last seven years if my child fails to continue with his education?" she questioned.
A study conducted by Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU) recently showed that children of migrant workers face different types of troubles including insecurity and loneliness.
In absence of parents, migrants' children also shoulder extra responsibility in household management.
Workload on girl child increases in the areas of cooking, cleaning and taking care of siblings. Boy children engage in additional responsibility in the areas of day-to-day shopping, payment of bills and supporting agriculture work.
"Too many guardians and unnecessary scolding, inability to demand for special food and toys, additional work during playtime are faced by the children," the findings showed.
Sajeda Aktar, a 10-year-old girl who reads in class III at Char Shalepur Primary School, said she cooks food for her father and two brothers every day. "So, I cannot attend school regularly."
In absence of her father, she said, a crooked person came to their home and wanted to touch her body parts.
"I have told my father about that person. He has asked me to go to my grandma house after cooking food," Sajeda said.
"But I am still very much scared of the man as I think he can do anything with me," she said, adding that her mother is also very much worried about her security and plans to come back home from Jordan shortly.
"My mother always advised me to continue study so that I can be a teacher," said Sohan Fakir, another child. His mother has been staying in Lebanon for last two years.
"I also want to be a teacher to make dream of my mother true. But it is difficult for me as I have to do household work."
His father does nothing to earn money and is also not willing to take part in household work, he said, adding that he feels loneliness and remains distressed many times.
Sumaiya Islam, executive director of Bangladesh Nari Sramik Kendra-BNSK, said children, left behind by migrant workers, face many problems.
"When it is women migration, then problems become acute as fathers in Bangladesh's rural societies are usually not taking care of children like mothers."
Her organisation also identified that school dropout, early marriage, drug addiction and abuse are common problems facing migrant workers' children.
To improve the situation, the government should make proper policy for the migration-prone areas. Support centres, and awareness programme can help the families improve communication with children, she observed.
OKUP chairman Shakirul Islam said counselling program should be introduced in every migration-prone area with special focus on underdeveloped areas for health, security and education system.
The government should enforce child right act properly to protect children, he added.
When contacted, Zahid Anwar, deputy director at Wage Earners' Welfare Board (WEWB), said they have been continuing with a stipend programme for meritorious children of migrant workers.
The government also introduced quota for HSC level children of migrant workers. But they have no programme for the children in lagging behind areas.
Migrant workers also can lodge complaints through probashbondhu call center if they or their families face any kinds of problems," he said, adding that they will also increase the facilities of migrant workers gradually.
Since 1991, over 0.87 million women went abroad with jobs, according to the Bureau of Manpower Employment and Training data.
Most of Bangladeshi women are working in 18 countries as domestic helps.
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