To commemorate International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum (BIPF) yesterday organised a webinar. The online event focused on Covid-19 and indigenous people's situation.
BIPF General Secretary Sanjeeb Drong moderated and chaired the meeting.
The discussants focused on the high degree of socio-economic marginalisation experienced by the indigenous communities of Bangladesh, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic that triggered joblessness and further marginalisation.
Hans Lambrecht, PhD, first secretary & chargé d'affaires of Delegation of the European Union to Bangladesh, said, "Realising the rights of indigenous peoples means ensuring their inclusion and participation in Covid-19 response and recovery strategies. Indigenous peoples must be consulted in all efforts to fight the pandemic."
Speakers also focused on the unemployment of thousands of indigenous women in Bangladesh who mostly worked in the service sector and lost their jobs in the recent months.
Joan Carling, former member of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, said, "Indigenous women, who are responsible for the health, nutrition and care of their families and communities, are suffering immensely in this pandemic. In addition to the existing challenges such as land encroachment, poor access to water and sanitation, food shortages, inadequate healthcare services, this sudden loss of livelihood will push many indigenous families to extreme poverty."
In concluding remarks, Sanjeeb Drong said, "Indigenous peoples are the poorest of the poor and became more vulnerable during the pandemic. More than 100,000 indigenous peoples became 'new poor' because of the pandemic."
The speakers appealed for adopting an inclusive strategy to tackle Covid-19 in which rights and demands of the indigenous communities will be recognised and realised. They also appealed to the government to support indigenous families financially.
Kristin T Wæringsaa, chargé d'affaires, Royal Norwegian Embassy in Dhaka; Heike Alefsen, senior human rights adviser, Office of UNRC in Bangladesh; Professor Mizanur Rahman, former chairman of the National Human Rights Commission; Raja Devasish Roy, chief of Chakma Circle, Chattogram Hill Tracts; Professor Tone Bleie, PhD, Tromso University, Norway; Gam A. Shimrey, secretary general, Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP); Thomas Baumgartner, head of political, economic and cultural affairs, Embassy of Switzerland; Ruzan Sarwar, senior policy advisor, Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands; Dr Rishab Kumar Dhir from ILO's Geneva office and Winnie Estrup Petersen, ambassador, Royal Danish Embassy were among the guests present at the seminar.