Despite coming from a highly marginalised group of tea gardens of Barlekha upazila in Moulvibazar, Surjamoni Rabidas has just completed her graduation overcoming all hurdles.
But, considering the plight of her community, she started working to make the marginalised tea workers aware of the basic rights they deserve.
Tea garden workers are among those who are usually excluded from a number of government services with a view that they should be cared for by tea garden authorities.
The tea garden owners have the responsibility to ensure housing, safe water, sanitation, medical and educational facilities for the tea garden labourers and their families but these are not practiced fully by the garden owners. That is why they frequently get deprived of their basic rights and civic amenities.
“After getting training from the Human Rights Programme of UNDP, I am now voluntarily working with the workers of seven tea gardens of Barlekha upazila. I am trying to make them aware of basic rights that our constitution allows,” Surjamoni said.
She said the marginalised tea workers are not aware of their basic rights since the rate of education is very poor among them. “That’s why the tea garden owners are not giving them the facilities what they deserve,” she added.
Surjamoni said the tea garden workers community, in most cases, suffers for lack of safe drinking water and healthcare facility.
“I carried out a campaign in November last and make about 556 people from the community aware of their rights,” she added.
Kristhi Aung Leona, a young girl of Rakhine community, is working similarly in Patuakhali to create awareness among her community people about their rights.
“I have been working on human rights in 20 Rakhine villages so that they could get aware of their rights,” she added.
Like Surjamoni and Leona, 110 young girls out of 268 youth from ethnic communities or marginalised groups are working in their respective communities as human rights defenders.
UNDP communities and minorities expert Sankor Paul said they trained 268 youths, including 110 girls from ethnic and maginalised groups, of 15 districts so that they can create awareness among their respective communities about basic rights of people.
He said following the training on human rights and leadership issues, the youth were involved in community-based awareness and rights advocacy initiatives at grassroots level.
At present, Paul said, about 36 percent trained youth (97 youths out of 268) are actively taking part in addressing human rights issues or concerns of their respective communities.
According to UNEPA Report 2014, about 47.6 million people in Bangladesh are youth. If they have necessary skills, innovation and opportunity, they can take the lead in transforming their future as a change agent of national development.
Considering this phenomenon, the Human Rights Programme of UNDP has already taken different initiatives involving youth leaders to better protect and promote the rights ethnic minorities and marginalised groups in Bangladesh.