special feature

Rising Against All Odds: The Stories Of Four Indomitable Women

Nusrat Jahan Pritom

8 March, 2019 12:00 AM printer

Rising Against All Odds: The Stories Of Four 
Indomitable Women

Photo: Reaz Ahmed Sumon

Disability can be a rather misleading word. The proper words should be ‘differently abled’. Every disabled person has a special power, a gift. Through hard work and resolute will, she or he can shine with that special power. Today is a special day for women all around the world. It is International Women’s Day- a day when women are recognized for their achievements without regard to ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political differences. It is an occasion for looking back on past struggles and accomplishments, and more importantly, for looking ahead to the untapped potential and opportunities that await future generations of women. However, on this day, many people tend to forget the outstanding contributions of differently abled women and women with a difference. For this purpose, we have spoken to a few such leading ladies who have risen above the rest with their diligence, determination and skills. They live by as an example to my earlier statement that disability is an incorrect diction. These women working at the National Human Rights Commission of Bangladesh (NHRCB) have fully channeled their powers and energies for the betterment of humanity despite their differences and are inspirations for thousands of such other men and women out there:


Tultul, A Torchbearer For Other Women

Farjana Najneen Tultul cannot see but she is showing others the path to enlightenment with her brilliant contribution to society. She is the Assistant Director (Social Service and Counseling) at NHRCB. “I joined in 2015. At the beginning, my work was to listen to the complaints we receive as well as provide counseling to the victims at NHRCB. Now I have to handle the complaints received from Khulna and Barisal divisions. Everyone was pleased with my sincerity and later on, I received additional responsibilities.” She added, “I am the member secretary of the thematic committee on Persons with Disability and Autism. Recently the government has passed a national action plan for persons with disability. As member secretary of this committee, I have coordinated the task of preparing a draft action plan sent by NHRCB to the government. We have multiple tasks for the protection of rights of men, women and children with disabilities such as at our head office, there is an art gallery called Sheikh Russel Art Gallery where we exhibit arts drawn by the autistic children.” While talking about her work environment, Tultul has expressed satisfaction. “Everybody is very supportive where I work and this has inspired me a lot. I try to do everything by myself, including typing on computer, fixing files and other activities. I only face problem with reading hard copy, so I have to ask someone else nearby to read it out to me. If there was someone designated to assist me in such cases, it would be very helpful.” Tultul also avails of office transport and that helps her in commuting easily and efficiently from and to work. “Just like any blind person, I face challenges every day in my personal life,” she said. “There is still not enough technological support and facilities in our country for people with special needs. I hope that the mindset of our society will change gradually and it will be more flexible in the future so that we can live our lives and do our duties without facing any obstacle.”


Usha, A Woman With Indomitable Spirit

Every day, Rounak Jahan Usha, Executive Officer of Call Centre, NHRCB, travels from her hostel in Mirpur to her workplace in Karwan Bazar. However, what sets her apart from the rest is her disability to walk and special capability to overcome every obstacle on her way during this long journey to and from work every day. “I fell from the stairs and got a spinal injury. Since then I lost my ability to walk. My life completely changed. I was denied education from my academic institutions. Valerie Taylor, Founder of CRP, helped me a lot. She convinced the authorities to take me in, as I was a bright student. Finally they agreed and I resumed my studies and completed my masters.” However, Usha said even that was not always easy since exams were put in different floors and concerned people never paid heed to her request of holding her exams on the ground floor. “People in Bangladesh are yet not thoughtful enough for us. We have problems in traveling and in so many things. I often use rickshaw or CNG and there is usually nobody to help me there. It’s impossible to get on buses for us. It’s also hard to find another woman around who could help me get on and down from the rickshaw. However, I never gave up.” Usha’s family lives in Jhenaidah. Everyone became very proud of her when she got the job at NHRCB. This is my first job and I was overjoyed. She joined in June 2018. “The Chairman, Kazi Reazul Hoque, wanted to make a call centre that would be an employment opportunity for disabled women. We are very grateful to him and NHRCB. Shortly after we joined, they made accessible washrooms for people with disability here at our workplace. Our Prime Minister also does so much for disabled people. We are very grateful to her. We hope that society’s mindset will change soon and there will be more facilities for us all in the near future.”


Mita Inspiring Change

Just like Usha, Mita Khatun joined NHRCB on June 1, 2018 as the Executive Officer of the call centre. “This is my first job as well. I got to know they were hiring through ‘Women With Disabilities Development and Foundation (WDDF)’. Although I had applied in many places before, I was denied only for my disability. People frowned at how I would be able to do my works. All I needed was a chance to prove myself and I finally got it when I was selected for this post here. It feels great to be here. Everyone is very supportive.” Mita said that she feels good about the fact that she will no longer be a burden on anyone. “When I was unemployed, I used to feel very upset. But now I feel happy that I am being able to serve humanity.” She also faced a lot of challenges in pursuing her studies but she never gave up. Mita hopes to prepare for BCS in the near future besides keeping up with her job here. She advises everyone to believe in themselves and to be brave. She shared, “Anything is possible if you are determined.”


Chaity Rising Above Stereotypes 

Many people have the body of a man and the soul of a woman (and vice versa), yet our society does not want to recognize such conflicts. In fact, there is a taboo in even talking about such matters. Tanisha Yeasmin Chaity is a transgender who had defied the norms to be what she really yearned to be in her life- a woman. “Everyone disagreed and even despised me. My own family went against me at first though they support me a little now. People mock me. I am sometimes denied of my rights. Most people fail to understand this weeping soul.” Chaity began her works at NHRCB on July 1, 2018. She said, “I receive complains, take calls, motivate the victims who arrive here, sometimes write complain letters for the victims as many of them cannot read and write and do other works. I was given a job here in a special case on daily basis mainly because of the contribution of the Chairman, Kazi Reazul Hoque. Actually there is no quota for transgender not just here but anywhere. Policies are made for indigenous people, disabled people and other groups but nobody thinks about us. Since there is no framework or policy to hire me, the Chairman had hired me in a daily basis and I am extremely grateful to him for that. It was always my dream to work in a government agency. Now, it is a part of my resume and will remain a part of my life no matter where I go. History has been created. Perhaps more people will now think about us, focus on our rights and create policies for us so that we too can work for the betterment of the society. We want to work. When people see hijra (hermaphrodite) or transgender walking by, it is immediately assumed that they will start begging. Nobody wants to beg on the roads. Nobody wants to be a burden.” Chaity graduated from Bangladesh Open University (BOU) before working here. “In the future, I want to do something on my own such as a business that would provide employment to many people from the hijra (hermaphrodite) and transgender community. I want to do something for humanity,” she concluded.