Shorifa is a 6 year old, still so tiny that her face barely appeared on the video call; only the top of her head, accompanied by her little voice was all that came through. She quickly fixed the phone, revealing her smiling face. A smile that emanated a glow of contentment, one that stems from the surety of nurture and warmth. However, this smile on her face was something unknown to her. A 2-year-old Shorifa would spend her day picking up scraps alongside her mother around the Mugda stadium area of the city, living hand to mouth and always hungry.
Shorifa, is one of the 4.6 million children in Bangladesh who are still out of school, mostly living in urban slums and hard-to-reach areas. The dawn of her new life came in the form of teachers from a project for the urban extreme poor known as “Amrao Manush” operated by SAJIDA Foundation in Dhaka and Chattogram. They found this little girl alongside her mother, covered in dust, walking barefoot on the gravel roaming the streets looking for scraps.
Now Shorifa is a gifted student of the Early Childhood Development program of SAJIDA Foundation. Her days are spent in Maniknagar PDC (Pavement Dweller Center), accompanied by her best friend Arafat, and many more children like her. Where they are provided with essential care such as cooking, bathing, night shelter, children’s day care, non-formal education, health and other crucial services for the extremely poor. The center further assists women like her mother to seek and retain employment, ensuring a better future for both her and the family.
Shorifa discovered her love for drawing. “Ami shob akte pari!” (I can draw anything!) exclaimed an excited Shorifa. With a twinkle in her eye she spoke about her wish to be a policewoman when she grows up. A child who spent her early childhood perilously picking up scraps alongside busy roads, to have ambitions to help and protect others, is a heart-warming testament to how nurturing and protecting the basic rights of children can lead to unearthing diamonds like Shorifa. “I can help others and protect them,” explained a thoughtful Shorifa.
Bangladesh, in 2020 saw the highest GDP growth rate recorded in the country’s history. However, a visit to facilities such as SAJIDA Foundation’s Amrao Manush Pavement Dweller Centre and meeting with the beneficiaries there gives a stark reminder of how thousands of the extremely poor are still deprived of basic necessities and social services.
It leaves one with pressing questions, are we doing enough? Are we doing the most we can to stand beside the ones who are being robbed of their childhoods?
It can be the girl who begged at the window of your car to sell stickers that you don’t need. It can be the boy who roams your alley daily, looking for food among the trash. It can be the abused maid in one of your relatives’ houses. As educated individuals, as citizens of our nation it is our duty to meet our end of the bargain. Simple acts like volunteering in one’s free time, donating to organizations who work with children or simply taking care of that one boy who is always there in your alley. Not only by buying stickers from the girl in the traffic jam, but by providing her means of a better future. By standing up for the abused maid and saying enough is enough, you and I can do a lot more than we think.
At SAJIDA Foundation we believe that every child has a right to food, health care, education and protection from abuse and exploitation.
On Universal Children’s Day—and every day— we reaffirm our mandate to ensure that every children’s rights are respected, protected and fulfilled. To know more about how you can contribute in enriching the lives of these diamonds in the rough, please visit: https://sajidafoundation.org/donate-now-amrao-manush/ .