Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF) has honoured 10 youths from across the country as "Heroes of the Pandemic" today -- for their acts of benevolence, compassion and support to those in need in these trying times.
Md Musa of Barguna is one of them. He mobilised locals in his area amid the Covid-19 pandemic to raise awareness, and formed a 10-member team for burial of people who died with coronavirus infection. The team has so far arranged burial of 20 persons who died with Covid-19 in the southern district.
Musa also arranged for and distributed food, masks, and hand sanitisers among people hit hard by the pandemic in his locality. He also distributed relief materials among unemployed and poor families with support from local businesspersons and in coordination with government organisations.
Another youth, Saifur Rahman Shakil of Dhaka, took an individual initiative under which he distributed cooked food to 150 persons starving on the capital's footpaths.
This way, he has so far spent about Tk 4.5 lakh from his wife's and his own savings and distributed about 8,500 packets of food among people.
Besides, he also connected with different philanthropists and organisations to arrange food and financial support for the poor.
Musa and Shakil are among 10 recipients of the "Manusher Jonno Foundation Heroes of Pandemic Awards-2020", who came forward voluntarily to provide food, cash, livelihood and health support, stood up against stigmatisation of groups, stopped or prevented child marriage, and prevented violence against women and girls, amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
The eight other awardees are: Rina Akhter, Kazi Taif Sadat, Tahiyatul Jannat, Sandha Rani Roy, Joyeeta Poly, Tasnuva Anan, Shotej Chakma and Babita Khatun.
Mentioning that whatever he did was solely on humanitarian ground and without expecting anything in return, Shakil said, "The recognition will inspire me to work more for people".
MJF announced the names of the awardees in a webinar titled "Recognising Heroes of Pandemic", organised to mark the International Human Rights Day 2020, which was observed globally on December 10.
MJF Executive Director Shaheen Anam, in her welcome note, said the young men and women had risked their lives, spent from their meagre incomes and worked tirelessly to help others in distress.
"We also pay our tribute to those hundreds and thousands of people who have silently continued to volunteer for the sake of humanity with no thought of getting recognition or reward," she said.
Addressing the webinar as the chief guest, Dr Gowher Rizvi, international affairs adviser to the prime minister, appreciated MJF's timely initiative and said as long as human beings have empathy and sympathy for others, everything is possible.
Dr Rizvi also stressed for immediate enactment of the proposed anti-discrimination law, and the need to form a national commission for the minorities in the country.
He sought full cooperation of the NGOs to review all discriminatory laws that are detrimental to the interest of women's rights and empowerment.
Congratulating the awardees, British High Commissioner in Bangladesh Robert Chatterton Dickson said, "Human rights must ensure respect to everyone in society, including the most excluded and marginalised. These ten brave human rights defenders have done wonderful frontline work to make this happen. Everyone in Bangladesh is better off as a result."
Prof Mizanur Rahman, former chairman of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), chaired the event which was also addressed by Corinne Henchoz Pignani, deputy head of cooperation, Embassy of Switzerland in Bangladesh; Phedra Moon Morris, head of Aid, High Commission of Canada in Bangladesh; and Christine Johansson, deputy head of mission and head of development, Swedish International Development Cooperation, among other dignitaries.
MJF partner NGOs from 55 areas of the country, members from various civil society organisations and NGOs, academics and human rights activists also participated in the webinar.