For over a decade, Joyeeta Hossain, Project Coordinator for Nagorik Uddyog has been a driving force behind the establishment and operation of safe spaces for some of Dhaka’s most vulnerable children, the children of garment workers.

Joyeeta Hossain, Project Coordinator at Nagorik Uddyog.

For many of these children, whose parents work long hours in garment factories, being left at home without care is the only option. Children as young as two years old are left to their own devices, at risk of accidents, trafficking, and abuse.

Joyeeta explains: “Normally, garment workers live in densely populated slum areas, with maybe 100-150 people using 3 bathrooms and 1 kitchen. Maybe 2 families are living in one room…it’s very cramped, no ventilation, nothing.”

“Most of the children when their parents are at work…will be playing in the streets and there are lots of cars coming and going which causes many accidents. There are lots of kidnapping and trafficking that happens too, as there is nobody to take care of them.” 

As children get older and reach school age, the barriers to safe care and formal education are wide ranging; financial hardship, lack of proximity to government schools, as well as rigid school schedules that do not fit with the working day, all make it extremely difficult for the children of garment works to attend.

Joyeeta playing with a group of children inside one of the daycare centres in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Having worked with garment workers during her studies in economics and with a background in teaching and social work, Joyeeta wanted to find a way to support the children of garment workers, to help end the cycle of inter-generational poverty and exploitation.

“When I was doing my Master’s thesis I got connected with the garment sector workers and my research was based on the women and their livelihoods. I also worked as a volunteer in English schools and educational institutes. That’s how I knew I wanted to work with children.”

Before the centres were set up in 2013, there were few childcare options for garment workers in Dhaka. Inside larger garment factories, childcare facilities were purported to exist, but many did not operate and were only used for show during buyer visits – something that is sadly still occurring today.

Children holding up their new school bags inside one of Nagorik Uddyog’s centres.

Another challenge was that free childcare was a difficult concept for the community to grasp, and many people were sceptical about the project initially.

“When we started working in 2013, we tried to find the locations where most of the garment factories were located and found two effective spots to establish the centres. It was difficult because whilst most of the middle class and upper middle class can afford daycare centres, with lower income people it is less common, and the parents didn’t understand the intention behind the care centres, thinking we were trying to kidnap their children!”

However, through ongoing outreach, Joyeeta and the team built trust within the community, and once people could see the centres in operation, the excellent standard of care the children received and the benefits the centres brought to the wider community, the concept rapidly gained acceptance.

The project began with two centres, with Joyeeta and the team starting from the ground up.

Joyeeta visiting the children at one of the two daycare centres.

“Starting from trying to convince landlords to give us spaces, to setting up all the centres, buying all the furniture, trying to get the staff, me and my team did it all. It was tiring but it was a good experience.”

Today, there are four centres in operation, based in the Mirpur and Adabar neighbourhoods, located close to garment factories where parents work.  There are two daycare centres for children aged 2-6 years old and two drop-in centres for school-aged children 6-16 years old.

The daycare centres cater to the holistic development of young children, offering safe, clean spaces for recreational activities, with nutritious meals and clean drinking water. The centres are open long hours from 7am -8pm, to accommodate the schedules of garment working parents. Meanwhile, the drop-in centres provide informal education in subjects like mathematics and Bengali and English literature, as well as vocational training such as tailoring, for older children who are unable to attend formal schooling.

A literacy lesson for children aged 2-6 years old at one of Nagorik Uddyog’s two daycare centres.

Children stay at the centres for 19 months on average, with approximately 200 children being provided with care each year. Ahead of the school year, Joyeeta’s team meet with government schools to see if there are spaces to enroll any children in their care who are over 5 years old, acting as a liaison between the school and parents. For older children, many are supported into work through the vocational training offered at the centres.

Beyond providing care, nourishment, education and recreation for the children, the centres provide a supportive network for garment working parents, helping them to understand their own rights and that of their children.

“It’s actually changed the dynamic of the neighbourhood itself. We have quarterly meetings with the parents where we discuss different issues; current affairs, reducing child marriage, the importance of nutrition for children. We talk about human rights, labour rights, child rights, and issues that are associated with the overall welfare of society, and the children.”

Since the establishment of the initial daycare centres back in 2013, Joyeeta and the team have cared for over 2000 children. Today, Joyeeta continues to drive the success of the centres with the same passion and determination that she has had since day one.

To date, Traid has committed £725,500 to this project thanks to everyone who shops at and donates clothes to Traid. You can read more about the daycare centres and the important work by Nagorik Uddyog here.