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Violent disciplining, sexual abuse, child labour, child marriage and psychological punishment remain widespread in Bangladesh, putting millions of children at risk of harm every day.

Nine in ten children – accounting for 45 million boys and girls – below the age of 14 are subjected to violent disciplining in their homes regularly. More than half of girls, 51 per cent, are married before reaching their eighteenth birthday.Millions of children are living on the street, are out of school or trapped in hazardous child labour. To identify these children and to protect them from harm and abuse, a well-planned, trained and supported social service workforce is critical, said the UNICEF in Dhaka on Tuesday (Mar 29).

To adequately respond to the needs of vulnerable children, over 100,000 social workers are needed, but currently there are only 3,000 social workers in Bangladesh.

 “The Government of Bangladesh, under the dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, has been implementing social safety nets focused on vulnerable people. The Ministry of Social Welfare is distributing different types of allowances for the old age people, widow, destitute and deserted women, and persons with disabilities under social safety nets programmes,” said Nuruzzaman Ahmed, Minister for Social Welfare.

“We also provide shelter for the orphans and vulnerable children in our Shishu Nibas and shelter centres. UNICEF has been providing their support to ensure the safety, security and rights of every child in the country. I hope social workers around the country will work for the betterment of the lives of common people.”

To promote the critical role of social workers in protecting children and women, UNICEF has joined hands with the Department of Social Services (DSS), under the Ministry of Social Welfare to launch a year-long campaign calling for greater investment in the social service workforce.

 “Professionally-trained social workers are at the core of every well-functioning child protection system that reaches every child in need of protection. We must recognize the importance of their work, and we must invest in them,” said Sheldon Yett, UNICEF Representative to Bangladesh.Already, dedicated social workers under the DSS, supported by UNICEF and the European Union (EU), are protecting children in urban and rural communities. These social workers reached over 200,000 children in 2021, providing them with psychosocial support, case management follow-up, and referral services.

Since April 2020, they also facilitated the release of over 5,000 children from detention centres – known as Child Development Centres – and have supported these children to reunite with their families.

“Experienced and well-trained social workforces are key to enforcing the rights of children. The EU is keen to support building the capacity of the government officials, social workers, and other specialists working with and for children, through training and the development of child protection policies requirements,” said Charles Whiteley, Head of Delegation, Delegation of the European Union to Bangladesh.

“We should acknowledge the efforts of the social workers who are working in vulnerable communities to address child rights issues in Bangladesh.

In 2015, with support from UNICEF, DSS established the Child Helpline 1098, a toll-free nationwide number. In 2021, the helpline responded to calls from over 120,000 children and concerned members of the public, providing counselling and referrals to legal aid, shelter, health and education services. At the height of the pandemic, in 2020, the Child Helpline 1098 responded to over 180,000 calls.

Dhaka calls for joint efforts to build smarter BIMSTEC

Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen on Tuesday called for renewing joint efforts at building a “more effective and smarter” BIMSTEC as a result-oriented regional organization.

“The 5th BIMSTEC Summit would revitalize the BIMSTEC process with a stronger political commitment and substantive directives and guidance of our leaders to chart the future trajectory of the BIMSTEC towards a higher level,” he said.Foreign Minister Momen, who led the Bangladesh delegation, was speaking at the eighteenth ministerial meeting of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) in the Sri Lankan capital city on eve of the 5th BIMSTEC Summit scheduled for March 30.

Secretary (East) Mashfee Binte Shams, Additional Foreign Secretary (SAARC and BIMSTEC) Md. Shamsul Haque, Rector, Foreign Service Academy Asad Alam Siam, High Commissioner of Bangladesh to Sri Lanka Tareq Md Ariful Islam, Director (SAARC and BIMSTEC) Md. Aminul Islam Khan, Director (FMO) Md. Emdadul Islam Chowdhury, among others, joined as Bangladesh delegation members.

Sri Lanka Foreign Minister and Chairperson of the 18th BIMSTEC Ministerial Meeting delivered opening remarks highlighting enormous potential that BIMSTEC holds in vast areas and laid emphasis on stronger cooperation for the benefit of whole region.

Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar led the Indian delegation at the meeting.

Security and StabilityMomen said Bangladesh is committed to the security and stability of the region within the framework of BIMSTEC Convention on Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime and annual Consultation Mechanism of BIMSTEC National Security Advisors Forum.

“I am happy to note that our leaders will be approving and watching the signing of the BIMSTEC Convention on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters at the 5th BIMSTEC Summit tomorrow (Wednesday),” he said.

The foreign minister said senior officials’ meeting held on Monday recommended some important documents for consideration and onward recommendation to the Summit.

“BIMSTEC Charter is one of them which will place the organization’s activities on a more structured and rule based platform,” Momen said.

Connectivity

Adoption of the BIMSTEC Master Plan on Connectivity will be a milestone development, he said, adding that it will allow BIMSTEC to undertake multi-modal connectivity projects linking the members and facilitating integration in the Bay of Bengal Region.

The Master Plan will also expedite conclusion of proposed BIMSTEC Framework Agreement on Transit, Transshipment and Vehicular Movement; and BIMSTEC Agreement on Motor Vehicle and the proposed BIMSTEC Agreement on Coastal Shippingto BIMSTEC Agreement renamed as BIMSTEC Maritime Transport Cooperation proposed by India, Momen said.

Once implemented, these agreements will pave the way for enhanced level of BIMSTEC cooperation, he said.

Energy is another important sector, Momen said, adding that they already concluded Energy Grid Connection Agreement during the 4th BIMSTEC Summit.

“The technical committees have been working to carry forward the implementation process. I note with happiness the proposed partnership of BIMSTEC with the ADB to formulate a BIMSTEC Master Plan on Grid Connectivity,” he mentioned.

Trade and Investment

The FM said they need to pursue promotion of trade and investment cooperation under BIMSTEC.

Operationalization of BIMSTEC FTA can boost intra-trade volume among the BIMSTEC region to 21% from existing 7%, he said.

The 20th Meeting of BIMSTEC Rules of Origins was hosted by Bangladesh updated texts of two important documents; BIMSTEC Agreement on Trade in Goods and BIMSTEC Rules of Origins.

Another round of meeting scheduled in April is expected to finalize the two documents.

“Once adopted, tariff free trade can start operation. We need to expedite the process together,” the Foreign Minister said.

The progress made in Trade and Investment, Transport Connectivity and Energy Sector, the three core driving force of BIMSTEC Cooperation, are indeed noteworthy, Minister Momen said.

He highlighted the importance of pursuing common projects, programmes of action and activities by sharing of member states’ resources, best practices, for collective benefits.

Highlighting Bangladesh’s progress in various areas, he said the country fulfilled 8 out 17 SDGs. “We are now on the right track to achieve other goals of Agenda 2030.”

He informed the meeting that Bangladesh managed the COVID 19 crisis successfully and vaccinated maximum of its populations.

“Our foreign currency reserve is almost closer to US $ 50 billion. We are now ready to address the Post-Graduation and Post-COVID 19 challenges. We want to leverage the BIMSTEC platform towards achieving these goals and objectives,” Momen said.

Sri Lanka is hosting the 5th BIMSTEC Summit in hybrid mode with the theme “BIMSTEC-Towards a Resilient Region, Prosperous Economies and Healthy Peoples.”

Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa will formally inaugurate the Summit in which Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will join virtually from Dhaka.

Bangladeshi PM slams US sanctions on elite force, says it’s ‘condemnable act’

Dhaka [Bangladesh], March 29 (ANI): Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Monday slammed the US sanctions on officials of the country’s Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) over alleged rights abuse, saying the move was “very condemnable act”.

Hasina said the elite force has immensely contributed to the country’s efforts in containing militancy and terrorism, Xinhua reported.

According to Xinhua, Hasina said Bangladesh takes legal action against any law enforcement agency members including those from RAB if they are found involved in any criminal act.

Earlier, Bangladeshi Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said that the allegations of gross rights violations by the anti-crime elite police unit were not “based on facts” and RAB was a disciplined institution that instead “has been securing human rights for the people of Bangladesh,” as per Xinhua.

In December last year, the US Departments of Treasury and the Department of State imposed human rights-related sanctions on RAB and seven incumbent and former top officials of the elite force. (ANI)

This report is auto-generated from ANI news service. ThePrint holds no responsibility for its content.

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