The Santals, one of the major minority groups in Bangladesh, are now more aware of their rights thanks to the support from the government and non-government organisations.
The NGOs stationed in Rangpur and Rajshahi divisions have been working to make the Santals aware of their rights.
As part of the initiatives, Islamic Relief has stood by 600 disadvantaged people, including 363 Santal families at Nawabganj in Dinajpur.
Several livelihood programmes and initiatives focusing on empowerment and awareness have made a difference for the Santal families.
A total of 30 community-based groups each comprising 20-25 beneficiaries have been formed and have been made self-reliant. Each team has a leader, who has achieved the quality to efficiently manage this team properly.
Marina Mardi, a Santal girl from Paderkola village in Nawabganj of Dinajpur, got married at the age of 16 due to financial crisis in her family. She studied up to SSC.
She told the Daily Sun, “People from the Santal community do not dare to do business because they (Santal communities) think that if we open a shop for business purposes, that shop will not sustain. but I have overcome that fear by setting up a tea stall and doing good business.”
“Now I am fine with my husband and children. If I had not received training from Islamic Relief, I would not have got the courage and morale to do business,” she added.
Dipali lives with her two children and husband in Chakdianat village of Nawabganj upazila. Her husband Binod Pahan works as a day labourer. Since the marriage, her husband Binod has been torturing her physically and mentally. She told this correspondent, “At the awareness meeting on Women’s Rights and Violence Against Women and Children by Islamic Relief Bangladesh, I have learned about various government services. Then one day when my husband was torturing me, I called 999, the national emergency service hotline. Soon the police arrived and warned my husband.”
She further said, “Later my husband realised his misdeed and we are living happily ever after.”
Emily Hazda, a leader of a community-based group, told the Daily Sun “Earlier we didn’t know about our rights including union parishad services, upazila health complex services and various hotlines. Islamic Relief provides training on team mobility, financial management and leadership skills to enhance our skills, which helps us to be more aware of our rights.”
Islamic Relief is an international non-governmental development organisation founded in the United Kingdom in 1984 as an international voluntary organization. Islamic Relief started its operations in Bangladesh in April 1991 by providing assistance to the people affected by the devastating cyclone off the coast and in the same year it was registered with the Bangladesh NGO Affairs Bureau.
Md Kamrul Islam, project manager of Islamic Relief Bangladesh said, “Under the Multi-Sectoral Development Program (MSDP), we are implementing ‘Strengthen civil society and community-based organization and establish community-based women group to enhance women rights and empowerment (SCORE)’ project to enhance the rights, dignity and income, productivity and efficiency of the disadvantaged population.”
The project was funded by ForumCiv Sweden- An affiliate of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), he added.
Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) of Nawabganj Upazila Animesh Som said Islamic Relief has been working in three unions of Nawabganj Upazila to support the minority groups. They are providing various skills development training and working to raise awareness among children and women.”
“People from minority groups are now aware of their rights and various government services including hotline” he added.
Upazila chairman Md Ataur Rahman said “The work of Islamic relief Bangladesh has created a huge impact here. They informed the Santal families about their rights. Now they are very sensible and active.”
“Besides, Islamic Relief has planted 2,400 different fruit saplings in our area to create a greener environment and help us adapt to climate change. In addition, 600 families are provided with 5-6 varieties of winter vegetable seeds to help support their livelihoods,” he added.
It was learned that through this project, 12,00 poor women and men were trained on rights, human rights and gender-based discrimination. As a result of this training, poor people get the right idea about their rights. In addition, skills development training including cattle rearing, goat rearing, poultry rearing, and cow fattening has been provided to 600 poor women.