Canberra is increasingly reflecting the multicultural community Australia is known for. However, with this increasingly diversified population comes associated challenges and opportunities when it comes to communication. Few good women in Canberra got united together in 2017 with a mission to help women from CALD (Culturally And Linguistically Diverse) communities of Canberra and underprivileged communities 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 in partnership with Perinatal Wellbeing Foundation, Headspace and MIEACT have organised workshops on women’s mental health, women’s physical health and adolescent mental health, and run creative writing competitions and cooking workshops with MasterChef contestant Rashedul Hasan all for the purpose of creating mental health awareness within CALD communities in Australia.
SiTara’s Story also tries to create a bridge between Canberra and developing countries, especially Bangladesh, where vulnerable groups such as women and children require early education and intervention. SiTara’s Story works with mental health professionals on the ground to conduct mental health awareness workshops in underprivileged schools in rural Bangladesh where they do not have any access to any support system. These activities include: Mental Health First Aid Training for teachers and students, positive parenting workshops, and trauma management workshops for approximately 1500 students and hundreds of teachers and parents in underprivileged schools. This is the only mental health intervention program in underprivileged schools in Bangladesh. SiTara’s Story has also supported women labourers returning from the Middle East who suffered mental and physical trauma from their employers.
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. 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”.