ICT Skills Training to Empower Bengali Youth with Disabilities

Back in May 2013, four projects won funding in a South Asia Regional Grant competition, ‘Youth Solutions! Technology for Skills and Employment’, to implement ICT projects that can reduce youth unemployment. We catch up with the Bangladesh category winner to hear about their progress on the project.

A teenage boy with disabilities lies on a pavement in Dhaka, hoping that the kindness of passers-by will help him through another day.

Sadly, this is not an uncommon sight in Bangladesh, where people with disabilities face severe social and economic disadvantages. According to the United Nations, although Bangladesh is making major strides in human development, the plight of people with disabilities remains acute. This is worrying, considering that half of the 20 million people with disabilities in the country are unable to afford the healthcare they need, and many do not receive necessary medical rehabilitation or aid. Children with disabilities are also less likely to attend schools compared to their peers.

Many people with disabilities are stigmatised and socially excluded from their communities. Most live in extreme poverty and have to beg on the streets. The lack of awareness of their capabilities as well as the prejudice these youth face further limit their access to mainstream institutions for employment.

Established in 1985, Dhaka-based nonprofit Young Power in Social Action (YPSA) works to support, empower, promote and protect the rights of socially marginalised groups in Bangladesh. We caught up with YPSA to find out the progress it has been making on its proposal, ‘Empowering Youth Disabilities through Market-Driven Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Skills’, which has received a grant of USD19,400 to provide ICT training and job search support to youth with disabilities who are living in highly-industrialised Chittagong.

Vashkar Bhattarcharjee, Programme Manager at the YPSA ICT and Resource Centre, said, “YPSA has successfully completed ICT training for the first batch of 20 youth trainees who are now interning in various professional institutions. We are also developing digital content using Digital Accessible Information System (DAISY), to make information and knowledge accessible for them.”

Each participant undergoes individual training in software commonly used in offices, with training conducted according to the needs of each person. The trainees are also taught English.

Youth with disabilities undergoing training in a past YPSA activity

Physically disabled participant Geshan-E-Ferdoush said that her newly-acquired ICT knowledge and better English language skills has helped her acquire more confidence about landing a job that is aligned with her capabilities and her dream of being a teacher. A Master’s degree holder, she had been unable to find a job before the training programme, and attributed this to inaccessibility in the city and the lack of confidence employers have about hiring workers with disabilities.

Second-year sociology student Umme Tanjila Chowdhry is from a single-income household where she and her three sisters are all visually impaired. Despite their tertiary qualifications, the sisters have remained unemployed, and Umme hopes to motivate her sisters in their job search by way of example. She is so inspired by her training that she wants to train other people in turn.

Training will soon commence for the second batch of 20 youth.

The programme also seeks to raise awareness about the capabilities of youth with disabilities among employers. This will be done through conversations with potential employers, distribution of communication materials on this subject and lobbying. YPSA also plans to organise a job fair and to continue its advocacy.

Md Arifur Rahman, Chief Executive of YPSA, said, “We are glad to support the young people in accessing employment opportunities they would otherwise be deprived of, and we hope to continue and expand this programme. There is a huge group that needs help, so we welcome other NPOs to start similar projects.”