About the «Upasshak» aid project for minorities in Bangladesh
The «Upasshak» aid project provides better prospects for the future for children from ethnic minorities. The project is located in the Bandarban Hill Tracts in southeast Bangladesh. This region is home to eleven ethnic groups («Hill Tribes», e.g. Chakma, Marma, Mro). This indigenous population is socially and culturally very different from the majority population, which is Bengali (98%) and mostly Muslim. The government of Bangladesh has actively promoted Bengal settlement in the Hill Tracts, meaning that the indigenous people have been expelled from their land. In the 1970s this policy led to a civil war that ended in 1997. Since then, the area has been occupied by the Bangladeshi military and is subject to military administration. The Hill Tribes continue to suffer from discrimination, underdevelopment and poverty. A secure livelihood, health care, education and participation in community development, although fundamental rights, are far from guaranteed. As the Hill Tribe children cannot rely on access to schools, the literacy level of the indigenous population is low (27% in 2013). There is an urgent need for education of the coming generation to give the Hill Tribes and their culture some hope for the future. In response to this situation, CO-OPERAID, together with its local partner organisation Humanitarian Foundation, supports 15 village schools in remote Hill Tribe villages, serving a total of around 640 students. Additionally two hostels have been opened in the district capital Bandarban, where secondary school education is provided for more than 50 young people from the Hill Tribes. The aid project also includes services to support community development, health care and income generation.
Impacts and results
A beneficiary tells
«I am 15 years old and am attending Class 10 of the public secondary school in the district capital Bandarban. I live in the hostel that is supported by CO-OPERAID together with another 50 boys from Chittagong Hill Tracts. I want to study in the best university and become an officer of the United Nations.»