Orphantrust » The children of the sex workers

The children of the sex workers

Posted by: on Jul 1, 2018 | No Comments

This afternoon we visited a shelter in Narayanganj, the owner of the shelter is Hazera Begum. We call her Hazera Afa (sister). Hazera was a sex worker in a Bangladeshi brothal.

She worked hard to earn money and buy herself out. She now provides shelter for street children and the children of sex workers in Dhaka. At the shelter we meet the 30 or so children for whom she cares and provides education. The children are loving and happy. They are able to interact as you would expect children to, a stark contrast to the street children we met at Kamlapur station.

The shelter consists of two tiny beds rooms with bunk beds and a small communal room. The rooms are no more than two and a half meters by two and a half meters in size. The shelter is essentially a small two bedroom flat on the first floor of an accommodation building.

On entering, the children gather, happy, smiling and waving at us. They say hello and welcome us. When we move away from the front door and into the small communal room a little boy who is very excited reaches out of me. He tries to hug me and tugs at my dress to get me to bend down towards him so he can kiss and touch my face. I am a little taken back as the boy looks very sick, but I can tell that he has a loving nature and cannot resist.

When I ask Hazera Afa about the boy, she says he has autism and is twelve years old. He looks more like 7 or 8. She tells me that she found him on the streets all alone and took him in. He has no mother or father or family in the world. She grabs him and holds him, and he touches and kisses her face as a baby would do with its mother. This is genuine love, I can see the connection.

I can also see that she shares this maternal connection with all of the children. It is apparent that the children are well nurtured.

She tells us that some of the children have mothers who visit them when they can. She runs the shelter by asking the mothers for a small payment for the maintenance and upkeep of the children. Many are unable to pay and some of the children are abandoned. I

this tiny flat the children are protected.

They know that they have mothers and that their mothers work, but they do not know that their mothers are sex workers.

 

The little boy living with autism is called Shojad. Hazera Afa tells us that he fell yesterday and injured his head. She is no longer able to care for him as the environment is unsafe. He will be moving to a special home for autistic children tomorrow. I worry about this as I know what these homes can be like. He is such a loving boy and out of this familiar environment I wonder what life holds in store for him.

There are also two girls at the shelter aged about 11. Hazera Afa has made arrangements for them to begin their secondary school education. They require fees uniform, books, pens and travel expenses.

Our visit today is to provide these children with a special lunch as a treat. As the food arrives the children congregate and sit in a circle on the floor of the hallway. They are excited and ready to eat. We leave with mixed feelings. This happy home filled with healthy children clearly has insufficient space. The home provided by Hazara Afa is filled with love, but resource is lacking.

Over the past ten days we have come to realise the realities of the stories we heard about the street children, the children of the untouchables and the children of sex workers.

We have experienced and participated in the work being undertaken, by organisations and people such as, Jaago, Bottomley House, Pothoshishu, Shudha and Hazera Afa to combat this poverty and provide care for these children. Each of these organisations approaches this issue differently and to differing degrees but all are essential in touching the lives of these children.

On our penultimate day in Dhaka, we sigh a tiny sigh of relief at the thought of flying home to England.

From the Bangladeshi people and children we have met, we have received love, care and warmth, but our realities are very different to theirs and we understand now how fortunate we are.

There is so much more that we can all do…

By Sofena Choudhury and Mohima Shamsuddin

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