Today marks the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, a day dedicated to raising awareness and protecting the rights of the world’s indigenous populations. Here at Islamic Relief, we’re shedding light on a project in Bangladesh which is helping to protect human rights and ensure better services for ethnic minorities and vulnerable communities in Dinajpur.

Islamic Relief’s work involves supporting local government and community-based organisations so that they have the capacity to better help local people, with a particular focus on vulnerable women.

Women are brought together in groups and taught about the importance of protecting their rights and how they can access government support. It is helping to transform the lives of many living in difficult circumstances.

Shumoti’s story

Shumoti belongs to the Turi community in Dinajpur and lives with her husband and three children. Her husband is unable to work due to poor health, and the little Shumoti earns  as a day laborer is not enough to cover her family’s basic needs.

When she gave birth to a son with disabilities, life became even harder for Shumoti.

“I was extremely happy when my son, Tuhin, was born. However, my husband, parents-in-law and other relatives started mistreating me and calling me ‘unlucky’. Since then, life has been very miserable.”

She also struggled to cover the costs of Tuhin’s medical treatment, and fell into debt.

Shumoti found work to help repay her loans, but without help to take care of Tuhin, she was unable to continue working.

The family’s expenses rose again when two more children were born. Shumoti struggled to feed the children.

To make matters even worse, her in-laws began putting a great deal of pressure on Shumoti to work as a day laborer, despite her lack of childcare. They physically and mentally abused her until she had no choice but to leave her children alone and seek work.

Due to Tuhin’s speech impediment and physical disabilities, Shumoti feared that he may run into harm if left unattended. She felt she had no choice but  to tie him up with a rope while she went to work.

I could not bear the torture. I had no choice but to leave my son tied up with a rope so that I could work. I had to start going out to work outside to support my family and meet their needs. My son had to pass 10 long years with unbearable pain and agony as he was fettered during the day time. Every day I returned home, I found bruises all over his body. Seeing his suffering, I could not stop my tears. I cried and prayed to Allah Almighty to ease his pain,” says Shumoti.

Islamic Relief staff met Shumoti and, hearing her heartbreaking story, invited her to participate in a project that we thought could help.

Shumoti joined a women’s support group, where she was informed of her rights and learned how to access government support in the area, as well as support available around gender-based violence.

Islamic Relief staff helped her to access government support which has provided Tuhin – now 13-years-old – with a wheelchair, boosting his  independence.

Tuhin is now much happier and is able to spend more time with friends and family, without needing to rely on others.

“Through the awareness activity of Islamic Relief Bangladesh, people are now aware of their rights and trying to bridge their gaps. Obtaining this wheelchair from the government is an example of the effort,” says community leader Sujon Singh.

This support has greatly eased Shumoti’s burden, and she is able to support her family without worrying about Tuhin.

“I had never thought I’d be able to get a wheelchair for my disabled child, but I did it. I am very thankful to Islamic Relief Bangladesh for their support when I needed it.”

Help us to continue our vital work to protect the rights of the world’s most vulnerable members and ensure that they can gain agency over their lives – please donate now.