Stories of poverty told by children
Letter to Friends around the World # 105

For three years, the organisation MATI took part in ATD Fourth World and Oxford University’s international participatory research study on The Hidden Dimensions of Poverty. Of the 165 million inhabitants in Bangladesh in 2020, more than 40% were children. According to the latest UNICEF report, 56% of children live below poverty level. Child labourers, children with disabilities and native children are among those who only rarely have access to education. The Bangladeshi National Research Team involved groups of children from different local NGOs in the research process to learn about their experiences and perceptions of poverty. The United Nations also recommends that children and young people be consulted as well as adults.

Four groups of children first defined the dimensions of poverty and their characteristics. Then some of them were invited to write stories based on the dimensions defined.

Gradually, the children gained confidence to express themselves and highlighted the following specific dimensions of poverty:

Environmental pollution and the effect of natural disasters • Poor living conditions • Sacrifice for family members (this dimension has been identified only by the children in the study) • Unmet basic needs • Lack of awareness and values • Physical and psychological pain • Lack of money • Bad environment in school • Lack of security, always living with fear • Lack of right to citizenship

Some quotes from the children:

– “Where we live, there is rubbish everywhere and the smell of rubbish and cigarettes. Crops are often damaged by heavy rain and flooding, and houses and playgrounds get destroyed in floods and cyclones.”

– “I need to work to support my sibling’s education and thus I am being asked (all the time) to leave school to go to work to contribute to the family expenses.”

– “I work in a trouser factory. Sometimes I feel tired after work. Sometimes I get back late and can’t get up in time to go to school.”

– “I don’t like my parents fighting. It is painful to see them cry. There is mental stress every day.”

– “Basic needs will not help to get rid of fear if there is no security in life.”

October 17, 2020 was celebrated by sharing stories of poverty told by children for this research. A debate was also launched for the participants about the dimensions of poverty highlighted by the children.

Mati, Bangladesh