Empowerment of urban working children in Bangladesh – a case study of Save the Children’s Education for Youth Empowerment (EYE) programme

Start date: 2 January, 2012 End date: 9 February, 2012 Project type: Master's Thesis (prior to 2018) Project code: A14394 Countries: Bangladesh Institutions: Roskilde University (RUC), Denmark Grant recipient: Anders Andreasen and Mia Ildor Jacobsgaard Total grant: 27,527 DKK


Bangladesh is the most densely populated country in the world and more than 30% of the population live below the national poverty line. A large proportion of the population, 42%, are children and youths and 13% of children between 5 – 14 years of age are involved in child labour activities. The majority work in the informal sector, often under hazardous and exploitative conditions. These children work up to 43 hours per week and are often not enrolled or attending school. Many international and national Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) are providing Non-Formal Education to children that have dropped out of the formal school system or ones who have never enrolled in the first place. One such NGO programme in Bangladesh is the Education for Youth Empowerment (EYE) programme of Save the Children. The vision of EYE is: “To empower vulnerable children, adolescents and youth in rural and urban areas to become accepted as viable economic, social and political actors”. The target group of EYE is child labourers and vulnerable youths between the ages of 5 and 25 years.


This thesis examines the empowerment processes in Save the Children’s Education for Youth Empowerment (EYE) programme in Bangladesh and the potential of these processes to affect the lives of child labourers and vulnerable youths in Dhaka.


Empirical data was collected in January 2012 in Dhaka, Bangladesh, through the use of various qualitative methods. The most substantial data consists of 14 individual interviews and 4 Focus Group Discussions with children and youth involved with the EYE programme. In order to describe and analyse the empowerment processes in the EYE programme we developed an analytical framework centred on Naila Kaaber’s understanding of empowerment inspired by the Capability Approach (CA) by Amartya Sen. Empowerment is a process of change where persons that have been denied the ability to make choices on how to lead their lives, acquire the ability to make such choices. This ability is determined by people’s resources, agency and achievements.


The study finds that the empowerment processes in the EYE programme are mainly contributing to build the resource foundation of the children and youths. In turn, the increased resources, both human and social, have the potential of enhancing the possibility for achievements for the children and youths, especially in terms of occupations. However, the increase in options cannot be directly connected to the actions of the children and youths, although within the EYE programme the children can exercise agency and choose to engage in activities that they themselves value. Empowerment is concerned with whether individuals can make choices of relevance to their daily lives. For the child labourers and vulnerable youths in the EYE programme, this ability is still limited by norms in society in relation to education and gender, as well as by relations with adults.  The thesis concludes that the empowerment processes have the potential to increase the resources and achievements of the children and youths, while their agency remains fairly constrained by societal norms and adults.