“Eleven-year-old girl Amena is a gifted child. She draws good portraits. She learns to dance so quickly. She sings folksongs so well,” says Moitry Snal, Child Protection project staff of World Vision in southern Bangladesh. Amena lives with her adoptive family in a poor area of Khulna. Parul Begum, 48, brought Amena into her home where she lives with her two adoptive brothers and father. Parul first saw Amena walking alone on the street in the slum and felt that she needed to do something, so she took her home and became her adoptive parent.
Three years ago, Sharon’s life resonated with American President Franklin Roosevelt’s famous quote, “When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on.” She was born and raised in North Pokot, Ken-ya, an area known for perpetuating harmful customs to girls. This included Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and child marriage, a practice that is illegal in Kenya. Sharon*, who was twelve at the time, knew she was at risk of being circumcised and handed over to a potential suitor for marriage. The only hope she had was her grandmother who could protect her from being married off.
|Inspector Juliet works to solve cases against children in the Child Protection Unit of the Kapenguria Police Station|
Inspector Juliet Tuwei, 34, recalls an incident that happened six months ago. What she thought would be a restful evening, turned out to be one of her most dreadful. As she prepared to leave for the day, she received a distress call from a village chief informing her that three girls under the age of 18 had just undergone female genital mutilation and cutting (FGM/C). She dropped everything and quickly drove to the scene of the crime.
To ensure a proper investigation, she seized both the perpetrators of the crime and the victims so she could build a solid case.
Vivian’s story is rooted in poverty. She says, “My dad married four wives… I had so many problems.” She and her siblings had to do odd jobs like selling firewood just to find money for food, and, even though she loved school, she had to drop out in class four. The weight of poverty and cultural pressures forced Vivian — and many of her peers — to undergo female genital mutilation (FGM). Though she tried to run away to her sister’s, Vivian had no choice when her sister sent her back. About a month after being cut, a stranger came and took her to his house to be his wife. Vivian was 12 years old.
She became an example to everyone in the church. She gives hope and teaches the love of God to children during Sunday school and her smile brings joy to all that surround her. She is only 14 years old and at a very young age, Julie* has seen the darkness of life, felt the pain of losing her loved ones, but at the same time found the strength to get up, move forward and shine. Julie lives in a neighborhood surrounded by gangs, drugs and violence. “Living in this neighborhood can be very scary. There is a lot of poverty, a lack of opportunities and broken families.
|Maya (center) back on the field|
“They used to say in my village, that we should not play football (soccer) because it is a boy’s sport,” says Maya. “But I learned that it is my right.”
Maya turns 18 this year and studies in the 11th grade. She loves football and plays as a striker, the player who scores all the goals. She used to play football a lot, but she stopped playing last year, even though she had progressed from district clubs to state clubs.
|Iman takes Fatema in is new rickshaw|
“I always take good care of my wife and children so that they feel my love and affection. The man who does not love his wife and children is not a human being to me,” says Iman Ali, a 42-year-old man. Iman lives with his wife Fatema, 35, daughter Sumi, 12, and son Al Amin, 9. Their home is a single-story house made of bamboo and corrugated iron sheets with a mud floor. Iman does not own his land, as it belongs to the Bangladesh Railway in Khulna City. Along with the stress of living in an extremely congested environment, Iman is at risk of being evicted by the Railway Department at any time.
|Dipa reflects out her window|
Dipa is 17 years old - a tall, yet petite girl, very shy and soft-spoken. One day not so long ago, she was lost in the bustling city of Delhi. She was hurrying back to the home where she worked as a domestic servant. She was trapped in child labor, a modern form of slavery. The people who employed her asked her to go to the store to buy something - that was the day she got lost and was wandering around the streets.
Murshida, 15, is the youngest child of Nachima, 46. She lives in the Bagmara community with her mother, sister Khaleda, 22, and her aunt. Murshida survived working in a shrimp processing plant for three years, endangering her health and interrupting her education. “My sister and I worked in a cold, moist and slippery environment, especially on the night shifts,” Murshida says. Both girls suffered from swollen hands and feet, fungal infections and muscle pain.
As a single mother, Nachima moved her family to Khulna. “I often begged on the street, chopped firewood, and sometimes worked as a maid. I hardly could make $1 a day…” Nachima says. When Nachima could not provide writing notebooks, pens, and uniforms for Murshida, she was forced to drop out of school, beginning her work as a child laborer.
God hears the cries of children. When Jesus said, “Let the children come to me,” (Matthew 19:14) he was speaking for God, who desires all of us, no matter how small, to go to him when we are sinking, in trouble, in distress.
In our world today, more than 151 million children ages 5 to 17 are subject to exploitation by adults who profit from their work, who cannot see a way out of the poverty trap. Sadly, often it is parents who see no option but to offer up their children for a small amount of money. The children have no choice in the matter. They have nowhere to turn.