Raising awareness about health and social issues through earnest efforts | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, September 11, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:57 AM, September 11, 2020

Raising awareness about health and social issues through earnest efforts

When Syed Tanzil Ahmed, Sheikh Zahrat Maanha, Syeda Nabreesha Ahmed and Sahar Matin lost their baby cousin Zayan Chowdhury last year, they wanted to honour his memory by helping the people around them. When the pandemic hit this year, they felt that it was the right time to start working towards that goal. Bearing that in mind, they started Joyodhoni Foundation in April.

"My sisters are only teenagers, and because of their involvement with the foundation, they are gaining new perspectives about life and the people around us," says Syed Tanzil Ahmed, one of the Co-founders and a student of International Studies at Simon Fraser University.

In just a few months, the foundation launched several initiatives across Dhaka.  During Ramadan, they started their first project, in collaboration with the Banani Police Station, by providing 300 families in the Banani slum with groceries for the whole month. As a part of their COVID-19 relief initiative, Joyodhoni Foundation volunteers collected the contact information of the slum dwellers. Through a token system, they successfully provided the families with bags of groceries.

They also distributed 500 packets of iftar in Dhanmondi. To avoid the risk of community transmission, social distancing methods were maintained during the distribution drives. They also gifted clothes and balloons to several children on Eid.

The four Co-founders and their network of volunteers initiated a drive for menstrual hygiene, called 'Talking Taboo,' where they provided necessary sanitary products to underprivileged women and girls, and raised awareness about menstruation.

Before the pandemic, Faiza Tasnim Zaman, a well-wisher of the foundation, along with her friends at NSU, conducted a social experiment to raise awareness about menstrual hygiene, where random Dhaka dwellers were asked about it. Their lack of knowledge about menstrual hygiene proved our ignorance towards the matter.

"Most people are simply not aware of certain issues and menstrual hygiene is not among their concerns," shares Syeda Nabreesha Ahmed, one of the co-founders and an AS student at DPS STS School. "Most women in underprivileged communities don't have access to sanitary products during this time, resulting in various infections and other health issues." 

"With this drive, we not only plan to distribute sanitary napkins, but also educate women about maintaining proper hygiene," adds Sheikh Zahrat Maanha, one of the Co-founders and a 9th grader at Sunbeams School. "We want to take this initiative across the country to establish the fact that menstruation should not be a taboo matter."

In collaboration with Staysafe, their first event under this drive was a session, where female volunteers discussed the importance of menstrual hygiene and how to use and neatly discard sanitary napkins. 565 families were provided with food, and 565 women took part in the discussion.

They further plan to distribute sanitary napkins to orphanages and schools and conduct short classes on menstruation to educate children and normalise discussions about the matter. The organisation also plans to launch a webpage, where people can share their stories, related to menstruation.

Their project, 'Bonnar Khaddo', will support 5,000 flood-affected families in the Derai upazila of Sunamganj during this month. With the assistance of local village authorities, they plan to distribute packages containing rice, sugar, lentils, potatoes, oil, salt, water purifying tablets, medicines, sanitary napkins, blankets and mosquito nets, among other necessities.

"As an organisation, our goal in the next couple of years is to gain an NGO status, partner with major corporations and collaborate with embassies," concludes Tanzil.


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