While it is true that many challenges still lie ahead in Bangladesh’s journey of development, considerable progress has been made in the last two decades – in the areas of food security, family planning and women’s education, to name just a few.
Recently another key achievement was reached: the government’s commitment to establishing a separate child budget, an initiative developed by Stars Impact Award winner Centre for Services and Information on Disability (CSID).
Talking about the government’s finance and budgets can seem, at first, a very dry topic. However, behind the formalities there is a world of opportunity for the 40% of the Bangladeshi population who has not yet turned 18.
Establishing a separate child budget will ensure that children’s rights and needs are adequately provided for and, most importantly, that the many commitments made to improving the situation for children are acted upon with the new financial support available.
The child budget is the first step in examining the resources the Bangladeshi government allocates to programs that invest in children.
This makes space for the specific needs of the most vulnerable children - such as girls, street children or children with disabilities - to be mainstreamed into the different sectors of health, education or transportation, for example.
In June 2014, the Finance Minister announced the government’s commitment to implement a child budget pilot in the three Ministries of Health, Social Welfare and Women and Children in 2015-16. This success can be attributed to a collaborative effort between CSID and its partners at the University of Dhaka and Save the Children in Bangladesh.
There were a number of existing factors that assisted the case for a child budget, including the existing Women's Budget and India, South Africa and Brazil’s successful experiences with their own child budgets.
The collaboration's ongoing discussion with members of government and the good relationship developed over time with them was also a key factor in reaching an agreement.
There is still much to do before benefits can be reaped.
Firstly, more Ministries need to participate in the pilot, especially Ministries for which the connection to children is less obvious. For example, the Ministry of Transportation might consider itself out of the discussion, but one of the biggest barriers to disabled children’s education in Bangladesh remains the lack of adequate transportation.
Secondly, ensuring the quality of data collected, especially disaggregated data for girls and disabled children, will be paramount to ensuring adequate monitoring of the child budget’s implementation and, in turn, its success.
CSID and its partners have plenty on their plate for next year, starting with the need to build the capacity of the ministries participating in the pilot. They will also need to maintain ongoing discussion with parliamentary groups, through alliances with civil society organisations and the media to keep pressure on the government and ensure that a political commitment becomes a positive reality for the children of Bangladesh.