Creating an inclusive society and bridging the gap between each kind of disparity that persists should be the goal for the nation to move forward, said the experts in a dialogue organised by the Economics Study Center (ESC), a student organisation of the Department of Economics, University of Dhaka (DU), held on December 19. The topic of the dialogue was “50 Years of Victory: The Story of Social Gains and Exclusion.”
The goal of this dialogue was to address the discriminations faced by less privileged and to discuss the possible solutions for them. The extent of social inclusion of marginalised communities including persons with disability, women and gender minorities, and indigenous peoples were assessed.
The session was moderated by Dr MM Akash, professor of DU Economics. Panelists of this session were Dr Binayak Sen, research director, BIDS, Ms Mohua Paul, co-founder of Access Bangladesh Foundation, and Sanjeeb Drong, President of Indigenous Peoples Development Services (IPDS). Starting from wage discrimination to the gender disparity and the lack of support for persons with disability, the penalists tried to address every kind and to discuss the possible solutions.
Kefayet Al-Fesan, the vice president of ESC, began the session with a presentation prepared by the organisers on the agenda. The presentation focused on the achievements and the desired goals of Bangladesh’s socio-economic infrastructure after the 50 years of victory.
Dr Binayak Sen stated some theories from different books and how these theories can be used to explain a certain country’s economic situation but cannot be used universally. According to him, “To answer the deepest questions of economics, we need to collaborate sociological theories, history and economics.” He also mentioned the current scenario of discrimination in India where different states have prevailing differences in terms of freedom and mobility.
Dr Sen highlighted one of the most important but overlooked issues in today's time which is closing the jute mills in our country and no visible and active protest against it whereas it was part of our political and historical movements. He addressed the inadequacy of data and the methodological problems in organising and collecting data as a major problem to discuss solutions of our wage and gender disparity.
Ms Mohua Paul shared her personal experiences and everyday problems that disabled people like herself face in our country. She highlighted the issue of people’s perception towards persons with disabilities (PWDs) and how that lack of a proper mindset is the cause for inertia in making our society more friendly for PWDs. The lack of services and facilities for them in public places, educational institutions and even in hospitals have hindered their day-to-day life.
Another important fact she wanted to focus on was the lack of compassion and assistance of people towards people with disabilities and tendency to ignore their demands and complaints especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to solve this problem, creating a safe environment for persons with disability and making a healthy environment for them is a must. Another solution that she proposed was ensuring the existing laws to protect and to ensure their safety.
Sanjeeb Drong, the last speaker of the session, talked about the problems and discriminations that indigenous people face in our country. Although Bangladesh has achieved quite a lot in the last 50 years, there are miles to go to ensure the safety of these people. There were 39 indigenous languages in our country and 14 of them have become extinct. Proper steps should be taken to protect the rest of them. Mr Drong shared experiences of his native people being harassed or insulted in educational institutions. The problems they are facing even after 23 years of Peace Treaty need to be addressed and solved.
Dr MM Akash highlighted the importance of empathy, prudence and benevolence. One thing that every panelist mentioned and hoped was the desire of a culturally sensitive country with no gender disparity.
Systemic oppression of higher class people over the working class by creating wage discrimination and other lack of facilities must be brought to an end. Working for change in our society to create a safe place for people with disability was another thing the panelists wanted to emphasise on.
“In our country, only the social welfare ministry deals with the issues of disabled people. Our health, education and safety should be brought under the responsibility of respective ministries like all other citizens; otherwise it will be impossible to eradicate this disparity,” remarked Ms Mohua Paul.
Mahjabin Rashid Lamisha is currently a first-year undergraduate student at Department of Economics, University of Dhaka. She can be reached at [email protected]