The culture of diverting people’s surpluses among the indigent is adapting fresh molds in Bangladesh
Last week, an initiative named ‘Manobotar Dewaal - the wall of humanity’ captured people’s attention on social media through its distinctive way of helping people in need. This wall of humanity, which is a corner on the wall of a mosque in Durgapur, Netrokona, consists of two cloth hangers with the message written overhead - “Apnar oproyojoniyo jinish rekhey jan, proyojoniyo jinish ekhan theke niye jan (Leave your unnecessary belongings here and pick the ones you need).
The nature of dealing with substances that are of no use any longer, be it a shoe, old furniture or even food, differs from person to person as well as among countries. Recent data from the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) shows that poverty rate stands at 21.8 percent and extreme poverty rate at 11.3 percent in 2018. Considering the scenario of mega city Dhaka, thousands of people are living on the streets or slums without being able to fulfill their basic needs. A similar situation can be seen nationwide. In the midst of all this, many of us are coming up with dynamic ways, either alone or through any organization, of lending their hands to poverty-stricken communities in order to lessen their suffering.
On one hand, the concept of ‘Manobotar Dewaal’ is hiding the identity of the donator, while relieving the aid seeker from social stigma. Jahangir Mahmud, the initiator says, “The use of particular belongings decline with time. On the other hand, many people around us may be in need of those. However, dispersing those to the right one appears hard in a country of ours with 160 million residents.”
“Moreover, there is a prevailing mindset of taking something free being associated with disgrace,” he adds.
Jahangir shared the incident that prompted him to find out a way where the needy one doesn’t have to go through any shaming. He said, “My offer of a piece of winter clothing to one of my uncles was rejected because he didn’t want to show his poverty to someone else.” Another recent incident had stirred Jahangir Mahmud to start the initiative, which was when he turned up at a second hand clothing market to make bags out of those. He saw the place, crowded with people, who were buying clothes for their own use. He said, “I was astonished at the fact that such a large number of people in our country cannot afford to buy new clothes for themselves.”
Jahangir hung that sweater on the wall of humanity and it was taken by someone that very day. “I hope it was taken by my uncle who couldn’t take it from me that day out of fear of social shaming,” he said. Everyday people leave clothes, shoes or whatever they want on the corner of this wall, and people who are in need, are actually taking them. “Since winter is on its way, we are hoping to see more warm clothes hanging on the wall so that people can save themselves from the bitter cold,” he added.
In addition to the wall of humanity, Jahangir is also associated with a blood donation organization named 'We Blood Donor' and has already donated 21 bags. “I intend to increase the number over time,” he said. A pass-course graduate from a local college, the objective of Jahangir’s life is to serve people.
Another prevailing and widely practiced aspect of such an act is collecting necessities from different sources and distributing them among people in need by different NGOs or through personal endeavours. However, currently this aspect is mostly limited to second-hand clothes and leftover food. For instance, distributing warm clothes during winter season among people who cannot afford to purchase them and providing shelter to protect them from the cold is being undertaken by many NGOs, organizations and student associations such as Needy Foundation, BRAC university Pharma Society (BUPS), Islami Bank Bangladesh Limited (IBBL), We The Citizen and so on. Alleviating hunger by distributing leftover food is another way by which Procheshta Foundation, Khukumoni Shomaj Kollyan Shongstha and many other organizations are helping those in need.
In Bangladesh, there are a number of people, mostly from the urban areas, who consider it more appropriate to gather all their unnecessary things together and take them to their hometown in order to distribute them.
Shaheda Afroz, a resident of Dhaka, makes sure none of the things in her house just sit there uselessly for years. In fact, she makes annual visits to her hometown, with bags full of different objects, including surplus clothes, shoes, bags, utensils and even old furniture – there is nothing that she has missed so far.
“I have been doing this for five years. There are many people in my village, who may have a tiny hut to live in but suffer from scarcity of bare necessities. By meeting them personally and figuring out their underprivileged situation, I try to help them with my little resources, in any way I can,” says Shaheda.
The purpose of helping the needy ones is rather imperative than the routes of its treatment.