Ask anyone and they will tell you, when they were young, all they wanted to do was make lots of money and chase their dreams when they grew up. Everyone then dragged their heels through school, college (and university) and then finally when they landed that great job, they moved out.

Some of the children now living on the streets probably had the same dream – except their reasons to flock to the city are multidimensional. And their reasons to migrate are not often because they wanted to, but rather because they were forced to.

In Bangladesh the reasons for child migration are many.

University of Sussex Review

A review, carried out by University of Sussex, mentions children traditionally left their homes in the quest for work.

“A common strategy for poor families in rural to take children out of school during periods of economic strain and send them to the city to work as servants or apprentices. ”
  • Laura Giani, University of Sussex.


Migration then also becomes an alternative to schooling. Many guardians view their children as economic assets; however, at the same time there is growing evidence of children themselves leaving home because of their lack of interest in education and thus choosing to seek their own routes to development.


One major non-economic factor that causes children to migrate is violence and abuse.

“A number of children reported that the process of leaving home was driven by the desire to earn money...but later explained that economic independence was seen as a way of gaining freedom from excessive control or abuse [by parents and others]...Children in street situations have often lost trust in adults…”

Conticini (SOAS) & Hulme (Manchester University).

Prof. Hulme, from Manchester University, tells Restless Beings that he fears violence is still a major, and growing, cause for child migration.

The above authors argue that reducing economic poverty will only partially solve the problem; rather it is the abuse of human rights and the breakdown of trust within households that needs to be addressed.

How are the Philippines dealing with child migration?

Like Bangladesh many developing nations face the same issue but some have managed to acknowledge and act upon it. Philippines population comes within the same bracket as that of Bangladesh, with a Gini coefficient that indicates a similarly unequal distribution of income across the country’s residents.

A report conducted states that in the Philippines, “Studies have consistently pointed to at least 3 major factors that push children to stay or live on the streets. These are the poverty of the family, family relationship factors (child physical or sexual abuse), and peer-gang influence…population growth, urbanization, and migration have [also] increased through the years. Children are often forced by circumstances to help their family eke out a living...Most of them are the children of poor parents who migrated from rural areas in the hope of finding better job opportunities in the city...”.

With this in mind, in the late 80s, the Philippines had developed a working and active partnership with city government departments, community-based organisations, NGOs and the private sector to tackle the effects of rapid urbanisation. Under the umbrella of the Urban Basic Services Programme, the Cebu City Task Force on Street Children (CCTFSC) exists solely to provide protection, educational assistance, residential care and psychosocial interventions for street children.

With almost 30 years of successful operation, UNICEF commended their efforts and stated that they want to “make the City’s programme for children a model not only for other provinces but for other Asian countries as well.” Revered for the non-formal education and health services, UNICEF further recognised that it is only possible due to the NGOs remarkable coordination between the City Government and a network of key non-government organisations, highlighting the monumental impact coordination between services and sectors can have on successfully, and statistically, altering the living conditions of street children.

As a result Cebu City actively caters for the migrated urban poor, especially street children, with infrastructures and policies in place that are evidently being exercised at a country, city and local level.

When asked what the key factors were to their success, CCTFSC’s Programme Coordinator, Redentor Betito, informed Restless Beings that it is a matter of having a “holistic approach in providing interventions...Our organization is a coalition of 24 different child caring institutions...This means that we can access a number of available services for children. One member agency can help or fill-in the gap of another member agencies in terms of providing interventions...Working together and willingly share its expertise [makes] us continue to strive even without the support of major international donors, currently our organization mostly get local support.

It is good practice for countries such as Bangladesh to take from the success of similar nations and attempt to implement the model since current practice is not improving the nations condition. Bangladesh has a lot to take from the example that Philippines provides.

Above everything, the key to Philippines success is an active and sustained effort that starts from the government but works collaboratively with other sectors and organisations – this is what Bangladeshi government ought to be reminded of.

Images from Restless Beings field visits and others.

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