Count me too

Mahfuzul Haque writes about the initiative that is hiring people with disabilities and enabling them to become productive members of society

Nupur

Nupur

Deaf-mute since birth, Nupur (19) found herself in deep trouble as she could not find anyone willing to hire her. Nupur’s mother has three other children and was struggling to make ends meet. ‘I have searched many places for a job for my daughter but nobody was willing to recruit her because of her disability,’ Shikha Akter, Nupur’s mother, shares.
Despite these obstacles, Nupur’s desire to be self-reliant could not be diminished. So, she attended a short-term training on sewing in 2013. Later on in December 2014, Nupur was hired by Vintage Denim Limited, a garments factory in Bangladesh, where she has been working as an operator in the sewing section.
‘I am happy that my daughter is no longer burden to anyone; she is earning and helping to run our family as well as contributing towards the education of her younger brothers,’ says Akhter. Akhter believes her daughter can overcome her disability only if she could get the proper treatment. So every month, Nupur sets aside a small amount of her income in order to save up for her treatment.
Md Mahbub Ali came to Dhaka almost six years ago to find a way to make a living. Jobs were hard to come by as he was born without a left hand. ‘I can recall the hard days I passed before joining Vintage Denim Limited. I did not even have enough money to buy bread,’ Ali says. ‘After joining here as a sewing operator the company has provided me with the training required for the job,’ he says.
He is now earning and being able to send a certain amount of money to his parents in Dinajpur every month. ‘I am happy that I do not need to depend on others to earn my living,’ Ali says.

Md Mahbub Ali

Md Mahbub Ali

Vintage Denim Limited has been recruiting people with physical disabilities as part of a project called ‘Count me too’ which is financed by UKAID, the British government’s aid agency. ‘Before initiating the project, we had also recruited a number of workers with physical disabilities as part of the company’s responsibility toward the society,’ says Nahil Ahmed, manager (HR and Compliance) of Vintage Denim Limited. The company has recruited 75 physically challenged workers since 2015 when the project was initiated. ‘We have a target to recruit 75 more workers in the coming days,’ Ahmed says.
The disabled workers have come from all over the country. ‘Some of them have already received some form of training before joining the company while we have provided others with the required training before assigning them to relevant departments according to their expertise,’ Ahmed says.
‘We have found from our regular monitoring that the physically challenged workers are as productive as the workers who are not physically challenged,’ Ahmed shares. In some cases, these workers are even more productive, he adds.
Ahmed goes on to add that having been provided with a job, the workers gain a respect for themselves and for their work which often makes them more diligent. ‘Besides offering jobs we also help them find accommodation in the nearby areas of the factory,’ he says.
Sajid Iqbal, founder of Change, a development organisation in Bangladesh, says that the vision of the project is to solve social problems through business ventures. The organisation is entrusted with overseeing the project activities as well as supporting Vintage Denim Limited in executing the project effectively. ‘We have conducted in-depth research to look into the kind of jobs that are suitable for those with specific disabilities,’ Iqbal says. ‘We also hold meetings with the business bodies like BGMEA and FBCCI to sensitise them towards recruiting a certain number of physically challenged people in every factory in the country,’ he says.
There are around 47,000 large and medium industries in the country and if they were to hire those with disabilities as even 2 to 3 per cent of their total workforce, they would cease to become a burden to society, according to Iqbal. ‘Through this project we want to create a model that can be followed in the coming days,’ he says.

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