As a domestic servant working for $6 a month as a young child, Shoma dreamed of going to school. Now, she dreams of being a teacher.
“I remember the day when my parents sent me away from my home…for the job of a domestic worker,” recalls Shoma, a teenager in Bangladesh.
Shoma’s father worked as a day laborer. When she was young, his income barely allowed him to feed his family, let alone send his children to school.
Poverty and hardship compelled Shoma’s father to send her to work as a maidservant in the house of a local affluent family when she was 8 years old. She earned just $6 a month.
Shoma was miserable. Scolding and mistreatment by the family left her feeling depressed and hopeless.
“I was not allowed to go to school — but I would see my master’s children going to school, well dressed, while I proceeded to do other housework,” Shoma explains.
Working in the kitchen, Shoma dreamed of going to school, dancing, and singing. “It remained a dream for 11 years…11 long years,” she recalls.
While Shoma was working, her mother, Monowara, joined a community group supported by World Vision.
The group assisted low-income women in their pursuit of economic opportunities. Monowara received support from other women, joined a deposit savings group, and was involved in gardening, poultry, and goat-rearing activities.
Monowara also gained a greater awareness of child well-being issues such as child rights, underage marriage, trafficking, abuse, health, and sanitation.
Monowara’s fellow group members learned that Shoma was being exploited as a child laborer. They approached Monowara and her husband and discussed the dire consequences of child labor — and a child’s right to education.
As a result of these conversations, Shoma’s parents released her from work and enrolled her to school.
“We now understand our fault; we have done wrong to [our] child,” says Shoma’s father, Monirul. “We won’t let other parents make the same mistake as us.”
Shoma has been a student for three years now. The years have gone by quickly.
“I still remember the moment when my teacher handed me the result card,” she says. “I hugged it…like a world champion would hug his World Cup.”
Shoma hopes to be a teacher. But for now, she is happy to enjoy the carefree life of a student.
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