Emphasizing the importance of changing the general mindset towards people with autism and disabilities, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said these people also deserve the opportunity to flourish and realize their true potential.
"Let's not neglect people with autism. They are also a part of our society. They may even be much more talented than normal people. We have to give them the opportunity to be able to live up to their potential, and we have to create a proper space for them in society," the premier said on Monday while addressing a program marking the 11th World Autism Awareness Day at Bangabandhu International Conference Centre (BICC) in Dhaka.
Organized by the Ministry of Social Welfare, the theme of the program was “Empowering women and girls with autism,” reported UNB.
Speaking at the event, the prime minister said people must change their age-old mindset towards people with disorders and disabilities.
“We have to be more sensitive and sympathetic towards them; we have to show them more love and affection and bring them closer to ourselves. We have to help them so their hidden talents can flourish,” she said.
Underlining the importance of being more aware of autism, Hasina said everyone had to stand by people with autism. “It's not their fault. Allah creates people in different ways. We should not treat them with negligence. Awareness is very much essential.”
The prime minister also mentioned a number of projects and programs undertaken by the government to help people with autism and disabilities become contributing citizens of the country.
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Briefly describing various initiatives, she said in the Bangladesh Civil Service (BCS) examination, a 1% quota is allotted to people with disabilities, while 10% is allotted for Classes III and IV categories of government jobs.
Sheikh Hasina said people knew little to nothing about autism even a few years ago. “The importance and awareness about autism have increased nationally and internationally, thanks to the tireless efforts of my daughter Saima Wazed."
She said her government, after assuming office in 2009, started implementing programs to create awareness about autism in the country and ensure the welfare of autistic citizens following Saima Wazed's advice.
The Neurodevelopmental Disability Protection Trust Act, 2013 was passed in parliament to protect the interests of people with disabilities, the premier added.
The program also included an elaborate cultural function where children with disabilities performed.
The prime minister also distributed awards among children with autism for their success in different sectors, as well as to individuals and organizations working for the development and welfare of children with autism.
In 2007, the UN declared April 2 as World Autism Awareness Day with the aim to improve the quality of life of those with autism.
In Bangladesh, different programs were organized to observe the day. Blue lights were lit outside important government establishments across the country on Monday, which will remain lit till on Wednesday.