Tania, is a girl who's almost stepping into her teenage years, and has been abandoned by her father, along with three other siblings and their mother, because of being a child with disability. Such cases are not new to our society, where fathers don’t even think twice before throwing out their children from their lives based on such a situation. Living with poverty makes these situations even worse.
On the other hand, there are also examples where fathers have taken the oath to protect their children by all means. Here are a few stories of underprivileged communities in Bangladesh where fathers support children with disabilities.
Sumaiya Akhter, who lives with her parents in Kalyanpur, suffers from autism and is unable to convey herself through words. However, her beautiful eyes continue to express a lot about her impish nature. When asked who she loves the most in this world, Sumaiya pointed her little fingers at Hamidul Islam. A construction worker by profession, Hamidul gets only a handful of hours to spend with his family.
“Sumaiya is always very stubborn when it comes to fulfilling her wishes. She makes sure she gets the permission from us to do things on her own. At times, her mother gets angry. And, I think, my presence makes her even more sturdy,” says Hamidul.
The father of nine year-old Sumaiya also went on to say, “My wife and I came to know of her condition when Sumaiya was aged just a little over three years.” Admitting that it was actually a bit tough for him to accept her daughter's condition at first, Hamidul informed us that he is trying to support his wife in providing Sumaiya with a better life. “It’s our fate and it was decided by the Almighty. As human beings, we have nothing else to do but agree to it, and do the best we can to support our child,” he added.
At the beginning of the year, Sumaiya was enrolled in Society for Education and Inclusion of the Disabled (SEID) a school for special children. Initially, it was a big challenge for the teachers to make her acquainted with the rules and regulations of the school. However, with time, she has gradually improved in many ways, noted by one of her teachers.
Although, it is not possible for Hamidul to be present with Sumaiya at all times due to his hectic work schedule, he tries to be there for his daughter as much as he can.
Named Sajjadul Islam Shadi by his grandfather, Shadi shares a beautiful bond with both of his parents. However, according to him, he loves his father the most. “Abbu takes me to different places. I have been to the zoo and amusement parks with him. I go for prayers with him, and I also have sehri and iftar during Ramadan,” said Shadi. “Like every year, I’ll go to the Eidgah with Abbu this year as well,” he added.
The 12 year-old, who suffers from Cerebal Palsy eagerly waits for his father to come back home so that they can read together. His father, Mohammad Shamsul Islam said, “I work in a company. Due to my work load I can't often manage to take out time in order to support my wife regarding family matters and particularly in case of Shadi. However, I try to never miss the chance of supporting her, whenever I can, especially during emergencies.”
“When the 'Raja-Rani' sari comes out in the market, Baba will bring me one,” said Sadia Akhter Shuily. While speaking of her father, the little girl's face lights up with a bright smile. The eldest daughter of her parents, Shuily’s diagnosis of intellectual disability left her parents in great agony. It became even worse when one of her other siblings was also diagnosed with the disability.
Although initially, Mohammad Umar Ali couldn’t bear the pain of having multiple children with disabilities, the father and daughter share a beautiful bond now. Continuous efforts by Umar’s mother and wife have made him accept the reality.
“Although my daughter is intellectually disabled, Shuily holds a good heart, especially when it comes to understanding the family’s emotions. Staying at home, she helps her mother with chores and does sewing, which she really likes,” says Mohammad Umar Ali.“I love sewing flowers on sarees,” said Shuily.
A butcher at the Geneva camp, Umar tries to make time for his family and children as much as he can. Often, Shuily along with two of her siblings, play with their father and spend time with him, chatting away to their hearts' content.
Shuily was enrolled at a mainstream primary school named Haji Salma Khatun Primary School back in 2017. Even though it is not possible for Umar to accompany Shuily to school everyday, the father-daughter duo however, enjoy the trip to school whenever there's a chance.
Mohammad Liton is the youngest child of Mohammad Kalim. Living in a tiny apartment in Geneva camp, Kalim works at nearby salon. Every day, when Kalim gets ready to go to work, Liton starts roaming around him expecting chocolates from his father. “My son’s favourite food is 'biriyani' and 'nan rooti'. Most of the time, he asks me to bring these for him on my way back home,” said Kalim.
While the father was talking, Liton was trying to pull out colourful blocks from a packet right beside him. Looking at his son who suffers from Down syndrome, Kalim said, “One of his biggest challenges is not being able to hold his concentration on anything for more than five minutes.”
Liton’s acceptance inside the camp and the affection of the neighbours helps Kalim lead his life peacefully. Currently Liton is studying at the Society for Education and Inclusion of the Disabled (SEID).
Whenever they gets time, Liton along with his father, goes to nearby playgrounds or parks. In fact, they visited the Shyamoli playground and Shishu Mela (amusement park) just a few days ago.
“Mothers provide the children most of the support – starting from bringing them to school to looking after them at home – since fathers are busy with their work. However, the positive mindset of fathers and their support to the children have brought a great change in the lifestyle and has a significant impact on the growth of these children,” said a teacher from Society for Education and Inclusion of the Disabled (SEID).
Decades of initiatives by government and different NGOs have brought a great deal of change among the mindset of civilians. Instead of considering children with disability a burden, parents are whole-heartedly accepting the way their children are.
Special thanks to Society for Education and Inclusion of the Disabled (SEID) for their support.