Children Contribute to International Research Project on Dimensions of Poverty

Above: Children from the The Dimensions of Poverty research group in Bangladesh.

“Don’t limit a child to your own learning, for he was born in another time.”
Tagore, Bengali Poet-Philosopher

Bangladesh has a population of 140 million. Sixty-three million, or 44 percent of the total population, are children. And more than half of Bangladesh’s children are living in poverty. According to experts, they experience widespread deprivation in the areas of food, sanitation and shelter, with limited opportunity to escape these conditions. A new report by UNICEF in Bangladesh found that 33 million children under 18 (around 56 percent of the child population) are currently living below the International Poverty Line.

“People criticize me because I am the oldest student in my class. When I go to school, people make fun of me. They say, ‘this student is older than everyone else.’ But I still go to school.”  Child in Bangladesh

Research on Defining Poverty

For three years, MATI, a local NGO, was part of ATD and Oxford University’s international participatory research study on The Hidden Dimensions of Poverty. The Bangladeshi National Research Team involved groups of children from different local NGOs in the research process to learn about their experience and perceptions of poverty.

During the research, the children from Bangladesh highlighted specific dimensions of poverty.

One of the characteristics of poverty the children identified was: “No one listens to young people’s opinions.”

Reviewing dimensions of poverty identified in children’s research groups.

Stories That Illustrate Poverty

Last June, delegates from two children’s research groups got together again in workshops in Huzurikanda (Sherpur District) and Mymensingh, Bangladesh. In the workshops, they wrote true stories illustrating the specific dimensions of poverty that they had highlighted during the research.

Tapori international helped with the workshop and plans to incorporate the children’s accounts of poverty into its “Children of Courage” Mini Book series. Part of Tapori’s international effort to connect children from different backgrounds, this book series profiles children around the world as they stand up to poverty in various ways. Because writing stories is not always an easy process, the children and facilitators did some training through a game.

Initially, each participant told their story using different characters and actions. Then they developed their written story independently.

Above: Group sessions occurred over two days.

Children Carry a Double Burden

Because children in poverty also suffer on behalf of their parents, they carry a double burden. They see their parents whom they love having a hard time coping, struggling to provide for the family, yet feeling disempowered. With great courage, many children find their own ways to support their parents, giving the entire family more strength.

“My father works very hard,” explained one child. “There is no-one who can help him. I want to give my father a hand but he doesn’t agree to this because work would be very tough and could harm me.”

The third day of the workshop, children rewrote their stories as “Drama” which they performed enthusiastically!

Children working on their theater performance.

Insights from Workshop Evaluations

“We know the sacrifices our families make,” said Shaun. “In the workshop, we learned to connect our stories together and perform them in a play. This is something new for me!”

Workshop participants.

“Before today, I had never done this kind of thing,” Alifa added. “I always hesitate and think I could improve. I will share what I have learned here with other children!”

With the support of the MATI facilitators and Tapori team, the children in Bangladesh are still working to complete the stories. Currently, they are doing final revisions of the draft stories.

Volunteer illustrators would be welcome to support this project. If you would like to help, please get in touch with ATD in Asia: . Thank you!

More on MATI’s research on poverty in Bangladesh.
More on ATD’s international research on the Dimensions of Poverty
ATD’s Dimensions of Poverty research in the United Kingdom
ATD’s Dimensions of Poverty research in the United States
More on Tapori children’s network.
Learn about ATD’s full-time Volunteer Corps opportunities

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