Fallen Stars

Md Shahnewaz Khan

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Child labour is a visible part of everyday life in Bangladesh. Employers often prefer to employ children because they are cheaper and considered to be more compliant and obedient than adults. However, children are exposed to situations that make them vulnerable to trafficking, abuse, violence and exploitation.

 

According to the ILO (the International Labor Organization), in 2006, there were about 3.2 million child labourers in Bangladesh. On average, children work 28 hours a week and earn approximately 222 BDT (3.30 US dollars) per week.

 

According to a UNICEF report from January 2014, 5.6 million of the country's 26 million children were not in school. The vast majority of them (93 per cent) work in what's known as the "informal sector," which makes enforcement of relevant legislation difficult. Many of the children miss out on their right to an education simply because they do not have the time to go to school or study. As a result, they get stuck in low paying, low-skilled jobs, thereby perpetuating the cycle of poverty.

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All Photographs Copyright 2015-2019 by Md Shahnewaz Khan  

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“Man's dearest possession is life. It is given to him but once, and he must live it so as to feel no torturing regrets for wasted years, never know the burning shame of a mean and petty past; and so live that, dying, he might say: all my life, all my strength were given to the finest cause in all the world──the fight for the liberation of mankind”  
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       ― Nikolai Ostrovsky

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I've documented these children's lives, originally out of my own curiosity and empathy for their plight.

 

Influenced by the great writer Nikolai Ostrovsky, I  am always drawn to people, their lives, their culture and their fight to survive. 

 

I feel a deep affection for them and they give me inspiration. I’m from a middle-class family and have witnessed child labour in my own household since they worked for my family. I would also frequently play with them.

 

I began documenting child labourers four years ago and am very much interested in those, especially, who work away from their homes. I try to fathom how they cope with their daily lives as they work in hazardous situations such as brickfields, aluminium factories, garbage dump yards and shipyards.

 

                                                                  

                                                                    — Md Shahnewaz Khan 

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The son of a freedom fighter and political leader, Md Shahnewaz Khan is a documentary photographer and freelance photojournalist based in Chittagong. Having dreamed in his youth of becoming a writer, photography instead, due to his obvious gift and talent for it, managed to become his muse and mode of expression. But he says he believes that a good photographer, like a good writer, seeks to tell those stories that will help shape our history as well as have an influence on our collective humanity.

 

Shahnewaz has exhibited across Europe, from London to Italy, Germany, Switzerland and even to the United Nations in New York. His work has been published in Smithsonian Magazine and CNN.com, just to name two. 

 

He is now the managing director of VOHH Gallery and Institute, which is the first institute of its kind based in Chittagong for photojournalism and documentary photography.

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can see more of Shahnewaz' work on his website at: www.mdshahnewazkhan.com

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