Supporting the Right to Education in Bangladesh
By: Musarrat Hossain, Research Officer, CSR Centre
Many businesses in Bangladesh still consider their corporate social responsibility (CSR) as an act of philanthropy rather than integrating the practices into their core business activities. The CSR Centre, as the Global Compact Network Bangladesh, has been involved with introducing and promoting the Children’s Rights and Business Principles (CRBP). The CRBP guides companies to take action in the workplace, marketplace and community to respect and support children’s rights.
As part of CSR Centre’s mission to promote CSR in the country, CSR Centre has taken up an initiative to develop a “National CSR Guideline for Bangladesh,” under the Ministry of Planning to guide companies on how and where to do CSR and also a “National CSR Policy for Children” under the Ministry of Labour and Employment which will accordingly feed into the National CSR Guideline for Bangladesh. The National CSR Policy for Children will focus on the company’s responsibility towards the rights of the children and provide them a guideline on how to respect and protect children’s rights in line with the Child Rights and Business Principles. And one of the core concerns of children’s rights is the right to education and the quality of education.
The National CSR Policy for Children will be applicable for both the formal and informal sector and shall include all children with special emphasis on disadvantaged and vulnerable children. The National Policy will include several core principles to guide companies. One of the core principles of the policy that came out of several multi-stakeholder consultations is that “Business shall contribute to ensure the rights of education of the children.”
The core elements for businesses will be to comply on ensuring the quality of education along with technical and vocational apprenticeships; giving special attention to children who do not have access to mainstream education; imparting religious and ethics education; contributing to early child development programmes; making arrangements for formal or non-formal working students; creating a systematical working environment for children; collaborating with the Government and local stakeholders to develop infrastructure for educational institutions/technical or vocational training centres; monitoring education for working children; and assistance to those programmes may be through a separate independent CSR department.
Companies interact with children on a daily basis as well as with family members of their employees and community members in the neighborhoods where they operate. Some children are also workers in their factories and fields. The formulation and execution of a uniform CSR policy for children will have a sustained effect on the lives of children and youth. Poor working conditions and lack of vocational training, learning opportunities, quality education, and opportunities for youth are a matter of great concern for Bangladesh. Having a CSR Policy for Children will boost Bangladesh’s commitment to international compliance and improve the country’s international reputation and conform to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Apart from this, as promoting opportunity and quality education is one of the areas where CSR can contribute, the CSR Centre also helps in private sector engagement, to build partnerships in common areas and also promotes good practices nationally, regionally and internationally through its different forums and networks.
Photo © A World at School
Musarrat Hossain is a Research Officer at the CSR Centre. To promote responsible business practices, the CSR Centre aims to strengthen local institutional capacity, raise awareness of CSR and serve as a champion for CSR adoption and implementation in the Bangladesh.
The CSR Centre, based in Dhaka, Bangladesh, provides information, resources and advisory services on CSR and is also the focal point for the UN Global Compact in Bangladesh. The Centre promotes the ten principles of the UN Global Compact in the areas of environment, anti-corruption and good governance, labour rights and human rights, which also encompasses children’s rights issues.