The sewing machine needle hums as Bithi’s fingers fly, and she stitches together piles of cloth at record speed.
“Sixty pockets an hour,” she says. She is crowded inside a second-story room with 20 other female workers.
Abject poverty and a sick father forced Bithi’s family to send the two oldest daughters to the garment factories to sew designer clothes that will be sold in shops in Canada, the United States, and other high-income countries.
“The first day I felt bad; I thought it wasn’t good. I was too small. I was surrounded by other older people. That first day, I cried,” Bithi remembers.
That was three years ago, when Bithi was 12. Now, it’s routine — no more tears are spilled. Every day, Bithi helps create a minimum of 480 pairs of pants and earns 83.3 taka, the equivalent of US$1.07.
When Bithi sees other girls her age in their blue-and-white-checked school uniforms, she feels “painful — my heart breaks,” she says. She once had a dream for the future — to be a doctor — but she’s given up on that dream.
She says she used to attend a World Vision nonformal primary education program after work. It was the highlight of her day. But some time back, she lost hope.
“There are lots of children who want to come back from child labor, but they don’t have any hope," says World Vision child protection officer Lima Hanna Daring."They didn’t get a primary education, they can’t get into secondary school, and their family relies on the income.”
Under Lima’s leadership, World Vision is beginning a new three-year project in Dhaka that will provide child workers ages 6 to 14 with informal education as a pathway to returning to regular school. For children ages 15 to 18, like Bithi, the program will help them to develop new job skills so they can have a better income and working conditions.
Photo©2015 Mark Nonkes/World Vision