Bangladesh is a land of diverse people with vivid cultures. To bridge the gap between these cultures, Leaping Boundaries, an organisation working with the Madrassah students to enrich their communication skills in English, life skills, ICT and psycho-education, along with SPaRC, an organisation working to improve livelihoods of the vulnerable and voiceless, arranged a boot camp for 10 girls ranging from different backgrounds. The initiative, called ‘Girls For Peace,’ was supported by the Swedish Institute.
The journey started with the arrival of five Madrassah girls in Rangamati on December 13. Upon their arrival, they met five indigenous students of the ninth grade studying at Moanoghar.
“We came up with this initiative two years ago in my house while sharing our similar yet different experiences,” says Executive Director of SPaRC Muktasree Chakma Sathi. “Eleven different indigenous communities live in three Chattogram hill tracts. They have a friendship with the mainstream children but are complete strangers to the culture of Madrassah students. Similarly, even the Madrassah students were found to be strangers to the indigenous culture.”
Apart from the meeting, various activities and talks on topics such as food, marriage customs, culture, religion, and their respective histories were arranged for these girls.
They were also taken to tourist locations such as the Bana Bihar temple, the Chakma King’s residence, and the Kaptai Lake. However, before they were up for this travel experience, the history and heritage of these locations were shared with them in a session with Nirupa Dewan.
The girls were also taken to the local market where they were familiarised with the hand-made products of the Indigenous community. This exposure allowed a cultural exchange between the girls as they got to know about each other’s way of life.
On the last day, a session titled ‘Knowing Your Body’, conducted by Muktasree Chakma Sathi, was arranged where the girls were given an open platform to ask questions and know about the changes their bodies will undergo during adolescence. The girls shared their queries regarding ‘good touch’, ‘bad touch’, and menstruation during the session.
“It is rewarding to hear about how the girls have bonded. There is a beauty in people from diverse backgrounds forming relationships based on shared experiences,” mentions Syeda Shagufe Hossain, Founder and Executive Director of Leaping Boundaries.
Leaping Boundaries and SPaRC are now working to organise more such events in the near future. They believe that this cultural exchange will lead to acceptance and eliminate the concept of ‘The other’ from society.