National Round Table: Overcoming Disability-Based Discrimination in Employment

By Fazlul Azim, NCDW

National Council of Disabled Women (NCDW), Bangladesh Legal Aid Services Trust (BLAST), Physically challenged Development Foundation (PDF) and Society for the Deaf and Sign Language Users (SDSL) in support of DRF fund, jointly organized a national round table on “Overcoming Disability-Based Discrimination in Employment” on 05 June 2010 at Dhaka Reporters Unity.

A national disability policy was formed in 1995 where it was clearly mentioned that persons with disabilities could participate in any government job including BCS. Unfortunately it is not being followed. Advocate Swapon Chowkidar was denied in BCS exam when he was discovered that he was a visually impaired person. Of 238 candidates who passed against 78 posts of Health Assistance in Cox’s Bazar district in June 2009, Mr. Jahidul Islam was the only one with a disability.  Despite a district-based quota for persons with disabilities, Mr. Jahidul Islam was not recruited. Physically disabled Obaidul Islam was selected in a post of Cancer Research Institute, but he was rejected when the authority saw his disability and another person was recruited in place of him. General Secretary of National Council of Disabled Women Hajera Nahar Nodi expressed her feelings emotionally that disabled people do not get justice in employment. She said that disabled people do not get any job easily in spite of their qualifications as they are considered with indignity.

The speakers said in discussion that the national constitution also mentions in article 29 that all citizens in the country have the rights to employment. So disabled people cannot be deprived of these rights. But the reality is different. Speakers said that there were two main causes seen in obstacles of employment of disabled people. First was attitudinal barrier and the second was institutional barrier. In attitudinal barrier, disabled people are considered as weak and incapable of work. On the contrary, if disabled people are given proper facilities and opportunities, they make a very good example of their skills and success in life. There are a good number of such instances seen both in country and abroad.  The institutional barriers are lack of rules of regulations in country to provide employment to persons with disabilities. Speakers further mentioned that the Disability Welfare Act-2001 was just restricted to pen and paper. They said that though there mentioned a disability committee in article 6 of the act but it was useless. Moreover the act was formed on the basis of medical approach instead of rights approach. Therefore, rights of disabled people are neglected in country.

The chair of the programme, the executive director of Research Initiatives, Bangladesh (RIB) Dr. Meghna Guho Thakurta said that it was a positive sign that many lawyers and legal associations are coming forward to promote rights of disabled persons. She said that we should use the word differently-abled instead of disabled. .  Bangladesh government ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), where in article 27 it clearly says of employment opportunities of persons with disabilities. So disabled people strongly demand that government has to soon provide jobs to persons with disabilities ruling out all discriminatory rules and regulations they are facing in getting employment. Among the discussants were Mohsin Ali Khan, Executive Director of BLAST, Professor Asif Nazrul of Dhaka University, Professor Sharmin Haque, Dr. Rewanul Haque and Barrister Sara Hossain.


 

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