Barishal Youth Society (BYS), in association with Duronto Foundation, has initiated their project 'Shomporke Bhalo Thakuk Desh', to help underprivileged families that were harshly affected by Cyclone Amphan. Currently, they are operating in a small island named Atakathi, in the suburban region of Jhalokathi, Barishal. Cinopoetic is the media partner of this project.
Atakathi is home to 25 families who have not only been hit hard by the cyclone, but have also been struggling to fulfill their basic needs such as food, clean water, and medical help, since the coronavirus pandemic hit Bangladesh in March 2020. "Amphan has left these families homeless and helpless. Most of these individuals are daily labourers who have not been able to earn since the past couple of months. Subsequently, they have been completely away from any form of funds or aid, since the country went into isolation," shares Faez Belal, Founder of BYS.
In the first phase of the project, the families were provided with food and cleaning supplies alongside other basic necessities. Their monthly food boxes consist of rice (25 kg), potatoes (5 kg), cooking oil (4 litres), onions (2 kg), flour (2 kg), lentils, salt, sugar, and spices. Other basic items such as hand and shower soaps, medicines, face masks, sanitary napkins as well as stationaries were also distributed among the families in distress. "BDT 2000 will also be donated to each family every month until things get back on track," Belal adds. "All these supplies are a token of support from 25 solvent families who are helping the Atakathi villagers in these tough times."
While hunger and destruction are prevalent in these times, many other problems also surfaced as the organisations started to visit the village before planning their initiative. "Child marriage is very common in this region and the women are not allowed to work after marriage," says Tahseen Anik, Founder of Duronto Foundation. "Around 60 women reside in this village, from which 33 are young girls. They are fully dependent on their husbands and fathers. With time, we have also come out with different ways to empower them."
The organisations are currently trying to promote the necessity of using sanitary napkins to ensure menstrual hygiene among girls. "My mother has donated the first month's supply of sanitary napkins and we are currently asking our female volunteers to share and demonstrate the importance and usage of sanitary pads to the villagers," asserts Belal. Weekly medical camps are also being organised alongside the facilitation of 24-hour telemedicine services and counselling.
They plan to establish sustainable practices in the village, in the long run. Subsequently, the organisations have already started providing free seeds to help the farmers in the region. "Alongside agricultural goods, we will also be providing them with domestic animals such as chickens and ducks to rear," mentions Anik.
The initiators are currently looking for ways to empower the female population in Atakathi. They soon plan to launch a handicraft product line, especially based on Shitolpaati, the traditional signifier of the region, to ensure jobs and feasibility for women.