Meet Munni - championing children's rights in Bangladesh | ActionAid UK

Mahmuda Alim

Child Sponsorship Manager, Bangladesh

On the surface Munni is just like 10-year-old girls the world over – wanting to learn, play with friends, make new friends, have a safe and secure home and have dreams for the future. But Munni is not treated the same as other girls because she belongs to the Dalit community - considered the lowest people in society according to the caste system in Bangladesh. Find out how she's transformed her life with the help of ActionAid child sponsors.

Munni plays in the narrow streets of the Dhaka slums where she faces daily discrimination
Munni plays in the narrow streets of the Dhaka slums where she faces daily discrimination

Caste discrimination affects both Hindu and Muslim populations in Bangladesh, and makes it even harder for people from low castes to escape poverty.

Traditionally Dalits live together in communities known as colonies. They have very poor housing and work almost exclusively in the service sector, doing jobs in urban areas that are regarded as impure, such as street sweeping, manual scavenging and burying the dead.

Here in Bangladesh they mostly work as manual labourers cleaning the streets, latrines and sewers.

Munni's dad is a city cleaner, a job that affects his daughters' lives

Munni's father, Monir, is a city cleaner and the family (Munni, her parents, and three sisters) live in a congested slum in Dhaka where everyone is a cleaner of some description.

They live in cramped conditions, and the narrow lanes between houses are the only places where Munni and her friends can play. 

Families like Munni's live, sleep and eat in one room

Before ActionAid started working here in 2012, Dalit children like Munni rarely went to school.

I hope someday all people in the Dalit community will enjoy life like everyone else.

Those who did weren’t even allowed to sit on the same bench as other children and teachers didn’t pay them any attention.

Giving kids new opportunities

In 2012, Munni started going to one of ActionAid’s child spaces - a safe place for kids to play and learn - that are supported by child sponsorship. She loved it and when she learned about her right to an education, despite being Dalit, she immediately expressed an interest in going to school.

As well as supporting child spaces, ActionAid organises events to raise public awareness that Dalit children have the right to an education too.

Munni and her friends have fun and learn about their rights at the ActionAid Child Spaces

One of the biggest events in Munni’s life was meeting the Minister for Women and Children Affairs in October last year. As part of Child Rights Week, ActionAid and other organisations got together with a TV channel to highlight children’s rights to education, non-discrimination and security.

Young people of all ages and socio-economic backgrounds took part and had the opportunity to ask the Minister and development activists a few questions.

When I was selected to take part, I was surprised but happy,” explained Munni. “I’d seen the Minster on TV and never believed that one day I would stand in front of them and talk to them. It was very exciting.”

Together, Dalit children are standing up for their rights

A champion of children's rights

Since her participation in that day, everyone in Munni’s community and school recognises her as a champion of children’s rights. Her teachers no longer ignore her or other Dailt children. Her education is going well.

She said, “Last year I came first in the end-of-year exam and was promoted to the next grade. I also have many friends at school from different communities. I share with them what it’s like to be a Dalit.”

Munni now has lots of friends at school

Munni can now dream about her future. And in that future, she wants to be a teacher. With her newfound confidence and courage, we are hopeful that she will fulfil her dream.

Munni concluded: “I hope someday all people in the Dalit community will enjoy life like everyone else. Thank you ActionAid for always supporting us.”

Full of smiles for a future without discrimination

It is incredible to see such a huge transformation as a result of the support Munni received at our child spaces, that helps not just Munni but hundreds of other Dalit children.

If you already sponsor a child – thank you. We'd love your help spreading the word about the difference child sponsorship makes - why not share this blog?

 

If you aren't yet a child sponsor but have been inspired by our work in Bangladesh then please consider sponsoring a child with ActionAid, and helping us support more children like Munni.

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