In November, 2016, it was a small news in the newspaper. Sathi’s Story shocked Shamaruh. She was frustrated. But she also knew that there had to be a better way to prevent it. She eventually found Monira Rahman, who was already working in Bangladesh to create mental health awareness. They decided to collaborate to create a better future for the underprivileged women of the world. Shamaruh shared her thoughts with Samira and decided to work together.
Shamaruh approached few good women in Canberra with a mission to help women of Bangladesh and the response was immediate and enthusiastic. The founding team launched the first fund raising event in June, 2017 for the “Mental health Awareness program” for adolescent girls of Bangladesh. This was just the beginning.
SiTara’s Story chose to work with Bangladesh initially because UNICEF has already classified Bangladesh as a country of “high inequity”. Bangladesh’s socio-cultural environment contains pervasive gender discrimination, so girls and women face many obstacles to their development. Girls are often considered to be financial burdens on their family, and from the time of birth, they receive less investment in their health, care and education. On the new global Gender-related Development Index (GDI) 2014, which measures indicators of women’s health, education and economic resources, Bangladesh ranks 107th. Bangladesh also ranks 115th out of 151 countries in the 2014 global Gender Inequality Index (GII), tied with Uganda and Swaziland, both low-human-development countries. UNICEF has also stated in it’s 2016 report that the vulnerabilities and needs of the adolescent girls in Bangladesh often remain unaddressed. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has further identified several wide-ranging challenges that are most relevant to address the rights of adolescents, including in Bangladesh. These include: (1) A growing gulf between the experience of adolescents and that of their parents or other caregivers; (2) Stigmatisation/negative perceptions of adolescents; (3) Invisibility of adolescents in policymaking, with a lack of a holistic vision for their development; (4) Lack of understanding of adolescent development; (5) Balancing continuing entitlement to protection with emerging capacities for participation; and (6) Adolescents bearing adult responsibilities.
Each year, an estimated 20 per cent of adolescents worldwide also experience a mental health problem. As already noted, suicide is a leading cause of death among adolescents globally; it may be associated with mental health issues or with difficulties within the family. Mental health issues in adolescence, if unaddressed, can carry over and negatively affect individuals over the long term. Yet in Bangladesh, as in most developing countries, few mental health services or resources are available for adolescents and young people. The stigma associated with mental disorders represents a further challenge to addressing adolescents’ mental health needs.
All this indicates that it is more critical than ever to nurture Bangladeshi adolescents’ potential, providing them with quality learning and better preparation for the world of work; fostering healthy behaviours that reduce non-communicable diseases, obesity, HIV and other health risks; and protecting them from becoming victims of violence”.
That is why our story starts in Bangladesh.
What is your story?