Awareness on health and education on the rise in chars of Lalmonirhat
Awareness is bringing changes to char health and education in four Teesta River char villages of Bhotmari union at Kaliganj upazila in Lalmonirhat. Due to regular awareness building by Char Health and Education Project under the local Non-Government Organization (NGO) called Own Village Advancement (OVA), funded jointly by Concern World Wide and Irish Aid, the char people at these char villages are understanding their rights, and about their children's future.
The char people said that a radical change has been brought about in the Teesta river basin chars as the girls there are now taking part in education themselves. They also said that earlier, there was hardly any initiative to enroll the primary age girls into school before the interventions by the NGO OVA and thus, they remained out of higher education due to a number of barriers and challenges.
Talking to the char people at the Teesta River basin char Sholmari, Char Shalhati Nohani, Char Kalikapur and Bhotmari Paschim Char under Bhotmari Union of Kaliganj Upazila said that the barriers mainly include gender disparities, limited opportunities, negative attitudes, early marriage etc. Moreover, due to poor communication system and geographical remoteness, retention rate of the girls after passing primary level in high schools was lower in the char areas. They also said that now, girls here have come to know about their rights through awareness raising programs among parents by NGO OVA's Char Health and Education Project round the year.
Char people also added that they are now very aware of their children's health and that they always check on their children's health regularly at the local health clinic as per the important messages from the NGO.
The project manager of Char Health and Education Project Ahsanul Kabir Bulu said, “All these have been made possible by raising awareness through meetings, seminars, dramas, and discussion at these char villages all year under the Char Health and Education Project of the NGO's Own Village Advancement (OVA)”. “We started working at these char villages in 2012, and before us, the char people were unaware about their rights; especially regarding health and education, but now they are aware and exercising their rights successfully”, he said adding “Gender discrimination was one of the biggest problems among the char people”.
Char woman Khadiza Begum said that now she and other women in the char village of Kalikapur have been checking on their health at the nearby health clinic in the char as they get important messages about the children' health from NGO's OVA.
Char farmer Nazir Ali at Char Sholmari village said that now, he is sending his three children to school after realizing the importance of education from the NGO's OVA. “If the NGO weren't building awareness here in the char he and all other char people would have been in the dark,” he said.
"Now the male members of these char villages always take care of their daughters' education, and their importance in their families and their society," said the NGO's Char Health and Education Programme's technical officer Khandaker Reaz Ahmed.
Char girl Aklima Khatun said that she is now aware of her rights, and that she is determined to keep studying in higher levels.
The Executive Director ED of the NGO's OVA Suzit Kumar Ghosh said that the NGO will continue the development work in the char areas to change the life style of the distressed char people if the funding continues.