The 13th session of the “Child Parliament” was held on 31 May, 2016 in Dhaka, involving 84 child parliamentarians representing 64 districts and 20 special regions. The meeting was supported by Save the Children and Plan International, with the support of the Embassy of Sweden and Bangladesh Shishu Academy.
The Child Parliament – now in its 13th year- is a platform for children from every corner of Bangladesh, and from all walks of life, to get together and debate the issues that most affect them in a mock parliamentary forum. The children who all belong to the National Children’s Task Force of Bangladesh, use the Child Parliament as a key opportunity to raise issues and make recommendations of senior Parliamentary and Government officials.
This year the Child Parliament was divided into two sessions. In the morning the Honorable Deputy Speaker of the Jatiya Sangsad (National Parliament), Advocate Fazle Md Rabbi Miah, MP was present as the chief guest at the session on 'Stopping Child Killing and Ensuring the Protection of All Children.' In this session, Child Parliamentarians raised impassioned concerns around not being able to attend school as a result of stalking and harassment and demanded a safe environment for children in Bangladesh to learn and grow. In response, the Honorable Deputy Speaker, said, "The current Government, under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina, is always child-friendly and that’s why we enacted The Children Act -2013. Full implementation of the law will ensure the protection of children." He urged media, civil society and international organizations like Save the Children, and Plan International to work together to implement the law and ensure child protection. The Hon'ble Deputy Speaker also promised child parliamentarians to follow-up with the Finance Minister regarding sector-specific allocations in the child budget.
In the afternoon session “Increasing Allocation for Water Sanitation and Hygiene in Secondary Schools,” the Honorable Education Minister, Nurul Islam Nahid, MP, attended as the chief guest. The child parliamentarian drew attention to the deplorable state of toilet facilities in schools. Parliamentarians described how toilets are often unusable, unhygienic, dimly lit, with a lack of safe drinking water supply. Purba Rani, child parliamentarian representative from Savar pointed out that schools did not always have separate toilet facilities for boys and girls, making it difficult for girls to go to school during their menstrual cycle. Purba added “Girls can miss as many as three days a month at school as a result of lack of hygienic facilities.”
Nurul Islam Nahid, welcomed the discussion by the parliamentarians noting, “Hygienic toilets and safe drinking water are the key elements for ensuring a healthy atmosphere at educational institutions. Actions will be taken against those who fail to ensure this.” He added that“Whilst Government has already taken initiative in allocating budget towards WASH facilities in secondary schools, I pledge to continue advocating for increased budget allocation to ensure proper attention and action is taken towards sanitation and hygiene in schools and safe drinking water supply”. He particularly noted, that girls should not have to miss school because of their menstrual cycle, and he was extremely supportive of boys and girls openly addressing and discussing this social taboo.
Hasan Mahmud from Meherpur district, the elected Speaker of the 13th Child Parliament closed the session in the late afternoon, having done an excellent job of managing debate, and representing the National Children’s Task Force before a significant number of observers from media and civil society.