Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today said the government would make “permanent arrangements” like formation of a trust fund for the country’s disabled children, so that they do not remain neglected in absence of their parents, BSS reports. “It’s a responsibility of the state to take care of the children with disabilities in absence of their parents…we are going to take such an initiative so that they can grow up in a beautiful environment,” she said.
In this connection, the Premier mentioned that a mother struggles and suffers mostly throughout her life for her disabled kids. “The mother mainly looks after (such) children…but what will happen and where these children would go when their parents won’t exist?,” she questioned.
“Keeping this in mind, we are making permanent arrangements for the children with disabilities so that they never remain neglected,” she said while addressing the inaugural function of the 9th World Autism Awareness Day at Bangabandhu International Conference Centre here this morning.
The Ministry of Social Welfare, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the Ministry of Education jointly arranged the function.
Health Minister Mohammad Nasim and Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Social Welfare Ministry Dr Mozammel Hossain were present at the function as special guests, while secretary of the Social Welfare Ministry Chowdhury Mohammad Babul Hasan presided.
Managing Director of Jatiya Protibondhi Unnayan Foundation Nasrin Ara Surat Amin delivered the welcome address, while a recorded speech of Saima Wazed Hossain, the chairperson of the National Advisory Committee on Autism in Bangladesh, was broadcast at the function.
The Prime Minister said her government is going to make permanent arrangements like constitution of a trust fund or a foundation for the children with disabilities so that such initiatives are not halted after the change of government.
“It happens in Bangladesh that if any government takes any move, it is closed or destroyed with the change of government,” she said referring to the shut down of community clinics by the BNP-Jamaat government.
“Our previous government during the 1996-2001 tenure took initiatives to establish community clinics throughout the country to reach the modern healthcare services to the people’s doorsteps. But after coming to power, the BNP-Jamaat government closed down all community clinics depriving the people of proper healthcare services,” she said.
In this regard, the Premier said the BNP-Jamaat did it out of political vengeance as she herself took such steps. “But the people of the country eventually suffered a lot for it,” she lamented. The Prime Minister also called upon the private sector to come forward to supplement the government efforts for the welfare of the people with disabilities.
“I would like to tell the private sector as well as the well-off people for the welfare of those who are born with disabilities or autism so that they won’t remain neglected…they are human beings and a part of the society,” she said. In this connection, Sheikh Hasina added: “I strongly believe that we all must work for them…to build the country, we will have to work together, not leaving the disabled in the lurch.”
The Prime Minister asked the authorities concerned to develop software, hardware and websites suiting for the persons with disabilities. “I have seen that like other people, the persons with disabilities have been working with equal efficiency in computer and Internet by using various softwares…they could contribute to the ICT sector if they are offered proper training,” she said.
The Premier also put emphasis on providing special care to the children with autism disorder by keeping their special demands in mind. “The tender-hearted children with autism (disorder) could be turned into a “valuable asset” if they are given special care by keeping their special demands in mind,” she said. Sheikh Hasina said the persons with disabilities have brought success for the country in various fields. “The disabled players have brightened the country’s image by winning golds in Para Olympic and Special Olympics,” she said.
“So I am calling upon all to integrate them in the mainstream of development…we would transform Bangladesh into a middle-income country by 2021 and a developed country by 2041 Insha Allah with united efforts of all,” she said. Elaborating various efforts of her government for the welfare of the autistic children, the Prime Minister said Bangladesh earned its great independence under the charismatic leadership of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
The Prime Minister said, the constitution of the country framed by Bangabandhu ensured equal rights, equal dignity and social justice for all and it has a very clear stance against showing of any difference between the citizens. “Keeping this in mind, her government has been working to flourish latent talents of the children with disability and autistic related problems, she said.
In this connection, she lauded contribution of her daughter and eminent child psychologist Saima Wazed Hossain and said it is Saima who created global awareness about autism and other physical and mental disability. Referring to a resolution adopted in the United Nation General Assembly unanimously, she said, Saima has a very strong and active role in this regard.
Sheikh Hasina said, two laws — “The Persons with Disability Rights and Protection Act, 2013” and “The Neurodevelopmental Disability Protection Act, 2013” — were passed in parliament to protect interests of the persons with disability. “Besides, Taka 3,100 crore have already been allocated for the trustee board of Neurodevelopmental Disability Protection formed to protect interests and rights of the autistic people and persons with disabilities,” she said.
In this connection, she said various services are being provided free of cost to autistic children and persons with disabilities from the Autism Resource Centre and a school set up on the campus of the National Disability Development Foundation located at Mirpur in the capital. Referring to the realistic education policy of her government, the Prime Minister said it ensured the rights to education of the autistic children incorporating a clause “No children could be kept away from the educational activities due to disabilities.”
Sheikh Hasina said the government has started work under the Ministry of Education to set up an Academy for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders aimed at bringing the autistic children in the mainstream. Such initiative would create opportunities of expanding inclusive educational activities for the disabled including autistic children, she hoped.
Sheikh Hasina said, 103 “One Stop Service Centres” have been launched in 64 districts and 39 upazilas of the country to provide free of costs therapeutic counseling and other services.”About 24 lakh persons with disability received services from the autism corners of the One Stop Setvice Centres,” she said.
Besides, the PM said, services are also being provided to the children having autism and neurodevelopmental disorder from the 15 public Medical College and Hospitals including Dhaka Paediatric Hospital while an “Institute for Paediatric Neuro Disorder and Autism” has been set up at the BSMMU to train up doctors at upazila level.
Later, the Prime Minister witnessed a colourful cultural function performed by the children with disabilities.