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Icarus Film
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That's Why I'm Working
Directed by Maarten Schmidt & Thomas Doebele
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Families in the slums of Dacca, Bangladesh are so poor that any income, even the pittance paid to children, is necessary for survival. Many children in the slums work in the "hidden child labor" circuit, serving as domestics, collecting recyclables, or working in cottage industries, often earning no more than room and board. Employers prefer children aged 8 to 12; they are old enough to work seriously and too young to protest miserable conditions.

Today's child laborers are tomorrow's uneducated adults. In 1996, the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC) started a 3-year primary course for Dacca's disadvantaged. The small schools are free, and provide a first step away from the vicious cycle of poverty.

THAT'S WHY I'M WORKING focuses on Ebrahimpur 3, a school at the edge of a slum in Dacca. The film follows the children through their 3-hour school day and to their world outside school. At home and work, they behave almost like adults, fully aware of the importance of their contribution to the family income. Speaking in their own words, the children relate their worldviews, sharing their worries but also their dreams for the future.

"A deeply moving story... because the children themselves tell their stories in a fashion that leaves little margin for manipulation. Vividly revealed in this simplicity is the complexity of child labor in a country like Bangladesh. To a common Western eye ... there is little room for an interpretation of child labor as anything other than evil. Anybody who is inclined to see shild labor in this light ought to see this documentary before passing his/her preconceived judgement."—Education About Asia

"Illuminates multi-faceted and often contradictory views by correctly depicting the broad dimensions of the child labor issue in context. This film links these crucial issues with sociocultural, economic, and sociopolitical aspects from a multidisciplinary perspective."—Asian Educational Media Service

2001 Association for Asian Studies Film Festival
2000 Middle East Studies Association Film Festival

53 minutes / color
Release: 1999
Copyright: 1999
Sale: $298

Subject areas:
Asia, Bangladesh, Child Labor, Education, Labor Studies, South Asia, Youth Issues

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Last Updated August 17, 2015
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