From suffering in silence to tackling torture
Visiting Islamic Relief Bangladesh has put into perspective why I joined this great charity. We’re delivering so many innovative solutions in this beautiful country.
I’m learning about our disaster risk reduction programmes, which help people to protect their homes and communities against floods and cyclones before disaster strikes. I’m also meeting people who have benefited from truly transformational income generation projects.
One such project, called Help Up, has enabled 10,000 widows – most over the age of 50 – to earn a decent living. Their hard work and Islamic Relief’s support enabled these widows to increase their income by an incredible 550%!
What has really stood out for me is our Alternative Sponsorship Programme. This project builds on the existing orphan sponsorship model by adding an income generation element, empowering entire families so that they no longer need orphan sponsorship in the long term.
Simply put, the support provided is in three parts. The child receives enough support to go to school. The children’s mothers and guardians receive grants to help set up income generation project. The remainder of the budget is put into a loan fund so that families can borrow money to expand their newly established businesses. The loans are repaid into the central kitty so that the fund can be used over and over again, enabling a large number of families to benefit.
Above: Tufail meets with the Executive Council of the Union of Self Reliance Women’s Forum
We met one inspiring group of mothers and guardians from this programme in Durgapor. They informed us that at one stage they couldn’t even say their names in public because of a lack of confidence. But when they spoke to us, they emanated strength and dignity – the positive impact of empowerment.
They told us they had lobbied the local council to provide more support for oppressed widows and orphans. In one incident they managed to stop a widow from being tortured by her powerful in-laws, and they have raised thousands of takka from their local community to help 29 orphans!
This is what ‘development’ is all about, masha-Allah – empowering people to lift themselves out of poverty and build a better life for the entire community.