Photo Gallery Dhaka's Invisible Slaves

In Bangladesh, the children of poor families are often forced to work as domestic help for richer families. Many receive neither payment nor free time nor a proper place to sleep. Most of them are girls.
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Sonya is nine years old. She comes from a family that lives on the street, in Tongi, an industrial city north of Dhaka. When Sonya was seven, she was abducted by a woman when she was looking for food in a market.

The woman took her home and forced her to work. The abductor's husband was a police officer. Nevertheless, two other children worked in the home.

Foto: Marco Giannattasio/ INSTITUTE
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Sonya was hit by the woman who had abducted her and her arm was burned with a heated spoon. She was held as a slave for one year and seven months before she managed to escape. Today she lives in a protected community on the outskirts of Dhaka.

Foto: Marco Giannattasio/ INSTITUTE
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Dhaka is the capital of Bangladesh and is among the biggest cities in the world. An estimated 20 million people live here, including many in slums.

Foto: Marco Giannattasio/ INSTITUTE
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Adisa is 13 years old and works in Runa's house. She actually comes from a village two hours by car from Dhaka, but a relative brought her to Runa, for whom she has to do all kinds of domestic work.

Runa herself doesn't help, but merely spends her time shopping online and looking at social media.

Foto: Marco Giannattasio/ INSTITUTE
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Runa insisted on being photographed, says Giannattasio. She claims she herself cannot help with the work because she suffers from depression as a result of her failed marriage.

Foto: Marco Giannattasio/ INSTITUTE
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Adisa sitting on the bed in Runa's room. She herself has neither a room nor a bed in the home.

Foto: Marco Giannattasio/ INSTITUTE
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Twelve-year-old Mousume was forced to work in a household in Dhaka for two years. She was seriously physically abused there.

Today she lives on the street. Her time as a forced laborer has traumatized her. She has recently begun injuring her own arms.

Foto: Marco Giannattasio/ INSTITUTE
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Momena, 15 years old (right), with her mother and her two sisters. She has also worked as a household domestic, but was able to return to her family a short while later. She now lives with them in a small shack. She continues to work as domestic help, but is among the few who earn money doing it.

Foto: Marco Giannattasio/ INSTITUTE
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The Association for Social Development (ASD), an NGO, works to support the rights of children in Bangladesh who have been forced into domestic labor. The state hardly passes any child labor laws, so the ASD organizes various initiatives that are meant to improve their situation.

They organize meetings with the children's employers in order to make them aware of their needs and to explain to them the children's rights.

Foto: Marco Giannattasio/ INSTITUTE
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After sensitivity training by groups like the ASD, this building contractor from Dhaka decided to no longer use any minors for housework or on his construction sites.

Foto: Marco Giannattasio/ INSTITUTE
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The ASD organizes courses for the girls. Here they learn how to read, write and do math, and are also taught about their rights and self-protection in the households.

Aside from providing them with schooling, the courses are socially important. Here the girls can make contacts outside of the supervision of their heads of household. They also dance, sign and perform together.

Foto: Marco Giannattasio/ INSTITUTE
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