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Posts Tagged ‘Bangladesh’

On 29th July, two students were killed and 12 injured when a bus plowed into a bus stand in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. In a country where such deaths were frequent, this could have been just another body on just another day.

But the students of Bangladesh have had enough. Enough of the selfishness, corruption and rampant denial of human rights. They have taken to the streets to demand justice, order and law in a country where all three are rare.

Students of Bangladesh – I salute you and pray for your safety and success.
You make us proud. In the words of Kazi Nazrul Islam, Amra jodi na jaagi ma, kemne shokal hobe?

 

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I was lucky to be chosen for a mobility engagement from EY that sent me to Bangladesh to work with an international NGO focusing on “Women’s Economic Empowerment through Strengthening Market Systems” WEESMS.

Enjoy the travel diaries on Youtube as below!

 

 

 

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We have started a charity called Sitara’s Story in Canberra, Australia.
Our first campaign partners with “Identity Inlcusion” in Bangladesh to raise funds for mental health awareness training directed at young girls and women in Bangladesh. The aim is to prevent stories like this.

Join us to help build strong women who can achieve their potential.

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There are lots of exciting organisations in Bangladesh which provide avenues for non residents to help. This time I selected four organisations and met those in charge to see what was being done and how we could help.

Prothom Alo Trust

First up was Prothom Alo Trust (PAT) as Probasy had worked with them to deliver the Project Incubate equipment to the hospitals. Prothom Alo Trust is a trust set up for the Prothom Alo newspaper which focuses on several areas of NFP (Not for profit) work. I met with Aziza Paula, director of campaigns and she took me through their list of campaigns:

  1. Anti Acid Campaign – This campaign focuses on the rehabilitation of acid victims, mainly women and children which was also the first campaign Probasy helped out with. Donations can be made to the campaign overall or to a certain victim and their progress which is then fed back to the donor
  2. Anti Drug Campaign – This is to raise awareness of the impact of drug taking as well as providing rehabilitation information to drug addicts and their families through meetings where doctors are present to answer questions. Donations will help fund events such as concerts and flash mobs which aim to raise awareness
  3. Student Scholarships – These are usually 1 year loans for bright students from poor families. In conjunction with BRAC bank, if this student acheieves a GPA of 4.0 or above then their further studies are also supported through this fund. Every year supports one batch of 150 students of which all 150 have passed with good results this year. Donations can be singular and directed to a particular individual or to the campaign as a whole. Aside from this PAT also have two schools in rural areas serving students below the poverty line for public eduation ata primary level. 4 teachers, maintainence and stationery costs 30,000tk/year.
  4. Relief Fund – This fund is for natural disasters as well as a winter blanket drive where 250tk buys a brand new CARE approved jute/cotton blend blanket that keeps people warm during winter.
  5. Persecuted Journos – This fund is for journalists who face persecution on the job and is on a need basis.

D.Net

D.net intereested me because I had read an article on their infolady campaign which intrigued me. From their website, “D.Net is a Social Enterprise established in January 2001 to promote ‘access to information and knowledge’ for all citizens though interactive digital media in achieving constitutional, national and international developmental objectives.” From the many things they are focusing on, the two major ones I was interested in were:

Infoladies or Mobile ladies

Initially D.net developed e-content on issues critical for people’s livelihood and started to make them accessible to the general people by setting up Information centers in rural areas. Digital-content  focused on legal  issues  such as human rights, legal aid for  women, children and  livelihood matters such as agriculture, health etc.   Around 150000 people, especially poor women, children and handicapped people have received information and benefited from this endvour. Information was made available through helpline and database information centers.  D. Net also refers to service providing institutions such as hospitals, agriculture extension etc. When surveys were carried out to evaluate the effectiveness of such centres however, it became apparent that there were a vast majority of women, elderly and the religiously shy who did not benefit from such information centres.

As a result D.net decided to take the information to the doorstep of the poor people through the mobile lady concept. As we know, women are marginalized in terms of getting information even if it is related to their basic reproductive health. Traditional beliefs, attitudes and cultural norms in Bangladesh make access to information difficult for women.   D.Net identified that if women were to provide such information then these barriers could be overcome and came up with the concept of Info ladies. These young women go door to door with mobile phones and a laptop and connect rural women to any information they require.  It also offers new technology-based self-employment opportunity for the educated rural young women. This is empowering both for the Info Ladies and women who live within the four walls of their homes.   

Donations can be made in bulk to be applied to the project in any capacity as well as more directly to a geographic area or even one person. All donations are 100% transparent to the point where you can donate to help a single info lady who you can then skype with to ensure she has recieved the aid. A truly visibly sustainable cause. The campaign manager is Mosharraf Hossain

Aponjon (MAMA)

On May 3, 2011, the United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton launched a new public-private partnership called the Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action (MAMA). MAMA leverages the collective resources of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Johnson & Johnson and supporting partners, the United Nations Foundation, mHealth Alliance and BabyCenter LLC. In Bangladesh, USAID has enlisted D.Net to ensure the development of an innovative health information service utilizing mobile phones to improve maternal and neonatal health outcomes.  The commercial brand name is Aponjon. 
 
MAMA Bangladesh provides both audio and text health messages to pregnant women and new mothers linked to their delivery date and date of birth of child.  The service also includes family gatekeepers for inspiring healthcare seeking behavior. The Objectives of MAMA are to reach 500,000 pregnant women and new mothers within three years, deliver critical life-saving health messages, leading to sustained improvements in health knowledge, behaviors and outcomes and to build upon USAID and Government of Bangladesh maternal child health and family planning programs.  

I was invited to the National Launch of the Aponjon Program and highly impressed with the dedication of it’s staff and their streamlined inclusion of government aid, foriegn aid and their partnership with corporates to make sure their brand is recognised and accepted. Donations can be made to support the campaign as a whole, to support a number of mothers or to support a certain geographic location. one mother’s year lon subscription is 1000tk or AU$13 approx. For more information contact Rizwana Rashid, Deputy Director, D.Net.
 
Muslim Aid 

Muslim Aid is an international relief and development agency working for poverty alleviation of the world’s poorest and most needy communities irrespective of race, creed, caste, religion, ethnicity and nationality. It is a UK-based humanitarian organisation, was set up in 1985 to help save and support the needy people through its projects in over 70 of the world’s poorest countries around the globe. It has been working in Bangladesh since 1991 with the commitment of “serving humanity”. Muslim Aid was referred to me by a friend, Tanvir Uddin, who works with Muslim Aid and I was very impressed by their level of dedication and partnership with foriegn aid. Muslim Aid Bangladesh (MAB) has a myriad of projects:

I visited Muslim Aid’s Institute of Technology (MAIT) where ultra poor students are given subsidised or free admission to learn livlihood skills such as Tailoring, catering, beautification, electrical engineering, mobile mechanics and refrigeration reconditioning. I also saw their maternal health program in Chor Manika which is in Partnership with the WFP. Both programs need funding to continue.

Co-Id

This charity is one man’s passion and brain child. After military service and a successful career in retailing, Fred was drawn to the Indian Sub Continent region. This is where he became involved in children’s charity work and started looking after an orphanage-farm run by an Australian aid agency. 40 years later at the age of 92, Fred has now successfully established 43 schools in and around Chor Fassion on Bhola Island in Bangladesh. The aim – to provide FREE basic education such as reading, writing and maths, for as many local children as possible. Chor fassion is on the southern most tip of Bangladesh and it is regularly ravaged by monsoons and flooding. It is where the ultra poor of Bangladesh work tirelessly in rice paddies for half the year to produce enough rice to feed almost 1/4 of the nation. The other half of the year the fields are flooded as are their homes.

This is where schooling is being established to try and bring consistency and education in an attempt to lift families out of poverty. My friend Samin and I, along with my dad went to Chor Fassion on a ‘Teach the Teachers’ Campaign where we saw 4 far flung schools and then brought in all the teachers (160of which 43 are english teachers) and tested their conversational english. CO-Id runs wholly on private funding with no help from either the Australian or the Bangladeshi government so any and all donations are most welcome.

If you would like to donate or find out more about any or all of these initiatives, please leave a comment and I will do my best to answer you or put you in touch with someone who can help.

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It saddens me that I have to write this blog entry. It shames me as a human being that such acts take place in our world, a world of human rights, progress, equality and kindness to all. And yet, it happens. And it needs to be discussed so that no more victims shy away in shame and their perpetrators go unpunished.

The moment I got to Bangladesh I was guarded constantly by my aunt, uncle, father or cousin (male). As a woman who roamed freely in and around Sydney city this was frustrating enough without the obvious impositions on my privacy as well. When asked for an explanation I got the following stories which left me open mouthed and sick to my stomach. The first was relayed by an aunt, who, upon hearing me say my mum worries too much replied, why shouldn’t she dear? The world is not what it used to be, even men are not safe these days let alone women going out alone. Only the other day I read in the paper of a young doctor who paid a house visit in a village nearby and had to stay the night at the patient’s house. During the night the guard of the house knocked on her door, she thought something must be wrong so she opened the door and the guard tried to rape her, when he was unsuccessful he slit her throat.’

This is not an isolated case. Rape has become increasingly prevalent in the subcontinent. Another case was relayed by a friend who is an intern. Another intern at the same hospital was on night shift on the top floor of the hospital and was raped by her fellow interns and guards. Victims of rape and their families are so ashamed they hardly ever follow through and press charges and these heinous crimes go unpunished. Soon after, the now infamous case of the Delhi gang rape hit headlines. When I first saw this news air on BBC, I couldn’t believe my eyes. A moving bus, a city like Delhi… this didn’t happen behind closed doors.  The public watched. And they did not react. Humanity died on this day.

Rape is such a taboo word. Gang rape even more so. People say it in hushed tones and avoid discussing it in front of children. What good is that if such a cruel act happens in Public?! Why are women so unsafe in such a modern and educated world? One of these women wore hijab, the other was quite old, the other with her boyfriend. These men do not look at what a woman is wearing or doing or saying.. they do not consider anything but that she is a female and they are sick and twisted! What are we doing wrong that such disgusting things have to be borne by women who have done nothing wrong?!

Education is the key. These men… if they can be called that were never taught to respect women. They were never taught any manners, they were never taught right and wrong. If they were, then they would never have done something so despicable. In a country where the female population outweighs the male, it is still the male that is taught to be the master, it is still the male shown in movies that aggressively chases the girl. It is still the female objectified and revealed in media and advertising. This is the culture and society which breeds such filthy acts. A society in which woman are objects to be attained, not respected. In which woman are things to be defiled and not humans to be treated with kindness and respect? This is the society we live in. And we call ourselves human.

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I blame the media. As a freelance journalist I am ashamed that Journalists do not do more to bring to light such acts and ensure through proper coverage that these acts are properly punished. I blame the education system for failing to teach men and boys to respect women. To respect the sex that bear them, nurse them, feed them and take care of them. I blame the families who fail to teach their sons that a woman is someone’s mother, someone’s sister, someone’s wife.

While I thank God that I live in Australia everyday, even here women experience domestic and sexually aggressive violence.  FaHCSIA reorts that “Around one-in-three Australian women have experienced physical violence and almost one-in-five have experienced sexual violence since the age of 15. For certain groups, this statistic may be much higher.” The Australian Government though, has made a concious effort in recognising and dealing with this issue. Who can forget the “To violence against women, Australia says No.” ad campaigns that flooded our televisions and raised awareness of White Ribbon? Information on The National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010 – 2022 (the National Plan) is widely available and transparency is key to educating society on such an important issue. This is what countries of the subcontinent need. India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and even the Maldives need education, policy reform and most importantly a root culture change in their way of thinking and addressing rape and issues of violence against women to avoid any more cases like the Delhi incident.

This woman has not died in vain. She has brought to light an act which thousands of women endure all over the world. US soldiers defile women in Iraq and Afghanistan on a regular basis. No one says anything. In Syria, Women are raped, tortured and left to die, their brothers and fathers shot in front of them and no one says anything. A small article in the last pages of a newspaper does not do justice to the pressing issue of the DEATH OF HUMANITY! 

May Allah swt safeguard us and our loved ones, May He keep us on the right path and allow us to speak out and act out for what is right. Ameen.

A girl lights candles during a candlelight vigil for a gang rape victim who was assaulted in New Delhi, in Kolkata

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