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Shamims Story, Bangladesh

Shamim, disability activist Bangladesh

COVID-19: Voices from the field.

Shamim, Bangladesh.

“As a disabled person I can change the world.”

Shamim’s Story, Bangladesh

When you meet 28-year-old Shamim, you know he is a person full of drive and passion to help others. Starting out as a young activist he has been fighting for the rights of disabled people in Bogura, Bangladesh for over fifteen years.

“As a disabled person I understand firsthand the unbearable discrimination that exists. Right from the beginning so much prevents you from building a normal life. Even when I was young I knew I had to do something to change this.”

“I decided to take part in a leadership training programme run by ADD International to learn how to fight for the rights of people like me. I learnt which tools and resources I could use to bring issues to the forefront of local government. It started a new chapter in my life.” “Five years ago I set up my own organisation to create a powerful voice for change and a strong network of support for the disabled community here.”

Empowering others has also helped Shamim.

“I feel like the happiest person in the world. Against all odds, I’ve achieved something great for people who needed help the most.”

“Bogura is becoming a friendlier and better place for people with disabilities to live in. There has been a huge change over the last three years because we have been able to make a difference at a local government level. Officials now know about our rights, and we are making sure they implement them.”

“Of course, there is still more work to do, still more people to help. We need to continue to shape policy, we need to continue to train more activists.”

When COVID-19 hit Bangladesh, Shamim jumped straight into action.

He made phone calls to all his contacts, including the local social welfare department, and put together emergency survival packs for vulnerable people with disabilities that he knew. Over thirty people received these packs containing food (rice, potatoes, cooking oil and herbs), soap and face masks.

“Lockdown meant many people could not leave their homes to buy food. They were in danger of being forgotten and at risk of starvation. I knew people wanted to help, but they didn’t know how. So, I started to coordinate the emergency response.”

Shamim’s help didn’t stop there.

He put pressure on the local government and along with help from his own organisation, gave emergency cash donations to over 100 disabled people to help them survive the crisis.

“Thanks to ADD International I was able to do something for the disabled community in Bogura; I had the confidence, resource and contacts to make a difference.”

Thanks to disability activists like Shamim, lives have been saved during the COVID-19 crisis, and the future for people with disabilities in Bangladesh is looking brighter.

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