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Leaving No One Behind: Giving marginalized people a voice

  • Published at 05:16 pm June 30th, 2019
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National Convention on Discrimination, Exclusion and Rights of Marginal and Excluded People

A very diverse group of people gathered at the LGED Bhaban, Agargaon for the National Convention on Discrimination, Exclusion and Rights of the Marginal and Excluded People. The slogan of the event was ‘Leaving No One Behind’. It was an attempt to gather academics, social workers, development experts, representatives of excluded communities and the media together to discuss the plights and rights of marginalized people. 

The event included many parallel sessions that began after the inaugural session. The sessions were not one-sided speeches from experts but rather inclusive discussions between representatives of marginalized groups and the experts. People from different marginalized groups were present at all of the parallel sessions. It was an attempt to teach these people about their rights while at the same time giving them a platform to share their problems. It was a pervading concept throughout the convention that if marginalized people are given a voice then there is a chance that society will step up for them. 

There were sessions on culture and identity of marginal people, achieving sustainable development goals (SDGs), laws protecting excluded communities, Modhupur forest villages and land rights. Due to being different from mainstream Bengali society these marginal people are often deprived of their rights and taken advantage of. These sessions included representatives of minority groups such as Bede, Shaotal, Telugu, transgenders, Bihari and sex-workers speaking about their problems and discussing with experts on how to best deal with them.  

Acknowledgment by the society  

Why are these people marginalized and excluded from the mainstream? “The idea of exclusion is complex as it is determined by aspects such as social, political, economical factors etc.,” said Dr. Tanzimuddin Khan, associate professor, department of International Relations University of Dhaka. According to the academician, the exclusion is happening mostly based on population size, religion, and profession etc. in the context of Bangladesh.

Addressing political acknowledgement as one of the key aspects in terms of maintaining certain status quo and being powerful in the society, he said, “in the discussion of marginal and excluded communities, it is important to determine whether they are politically acknowledged. Also, whether they have any powerful representation in politics is also an indicator to define the level of their exclusion”.

While disusing about international instruments and national laws protecting the marginal and excluded communities Tanzimuddin believes there is no alternative to knowing the laws including national and international if we want to address rights and identity of the deprived also bring change through appropriate action. 

How they are safeguarded by the law regarding labour rights 

Despite the fact that the deprived communities suffered through negligence based on their ethnic identity, religion and profession, Law doesn’t exempt anyone and speaks for everyone. In the national convention, Sharowat Shamin, lecturer, Department of Law, University of Dhaka and Dr, Uttam Kumar 

Das, advocate, Supreme Court shared insight about how these excluded people are protected by international and national law on labor rights. 

“ All are equal before the law. Law is not excluding anyone socially however, thousands of people are being deprived from their rights. This is where appropriate action by the state and positive political approach is required,” said by Sharowat Shamin. 

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work were discussed with the community people so that they could know their rights and raise their voice against abuse. 

Achieving sustainable development goals (SDGs) 

One of the main tenets of the UN SDGs is inclusion. The SDGs which are a global set of goals aimed at reducing poverty and ensuring peace around the world, cannot be attained unless the needs of the marginalized are met. Tapan Datta, president, Bangladesh Trade Union Centre, Chattogram, spoke about goal 8 of the SDGs which deals with workers’ rights. He mentioned the tea workers who are remarkably underpaid. He emphasized the need for workers’ unions and the the workers’ right to speak up about their issues. He suggested, “workers must be paid enough to be able to make a proper living”.

Dr. Abu Sayed Mohammad Hasan, program specialist, SRH, UNFPA spoke about SDG number 3 which deals with health. He mentioned that there are class discrepancies in the medical system. The poor and marginalized often do not receive the medical care that they require. According to him, “health insurance is needed for all but it is only available in a few places, not in the whole of Bangladesh”. Members of the sex-workers’ community present at the discussion claimed that not only are they openly persecuted by society but even declined medical care because of their profession.