Society for the Welfare of the Intellectually Disabled, Bangladesh, now better known as SWID, Bangladesh, is the pioneer organization for the cause of the intellectually disabled in this country. It is a non-government, voluntary, social service organization. It is also only the national organization of its kind with Branches at different parts of the country. Its head-office is located at 4/A, Eskaton Garden, Dhaka.
Before the establishment of this Society, the elite parents who were naturally very concerned for the future of their intellectually disabled children, were looking for a way out. Some such parents in Dhaka city, Mrs. Johura Rahman, Mr. D P Barua, Mrs. Salma Huque took lead in this effort. Fortunately Dr. Sultana S. Zaman, a dynamic person and then Associate Professor of Psychology, Dhaka University who had specialized on mental retardation (the name by which intellectual disability was referred at that time) during her research work abroad, was also looking for an opportunity to try her scheme for the education of the educable intellectually disabled. With her help, the parents finalized a plan for the education of the intellectually disabled children in normal schools in separate classes to have thereby some opportunity for their socialization in place of segregation together with their possible education.
They then approached Mr. Radha .Ballab Shaha, Principal, Willes Little Flower School, Dhaka with a request for his support to the scheme by providing accommodation for the special class in his institution. Mr. Saha readily agreed to this request and thus the first special education class for the intellectually disabled in Bangladesh was started on January 4, 1978 in Willes Little Flower School in a separate house at the center of the school campus. This was followed with a second special education class in January 1979 in Bangladesh Girls Guide Association School. These successes were prelude for an approach for the integrated education of the intellectually disabled in mainstream schools and with normal children at different places in Bangladesh. Most of the schools/classes of SWID, Bangladesh for the intellectually disabled are now located in mainstream school premises.
Formation of Society
Some parents of the intellectually disabled children, psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers who had been exchanging views for the welfare of such children, held a series of meetings in November, 1977. They then established an association named as “Society for the Care and Education of the Mentally Retarded Children” (SCEMRC) on December 24, 1977 with specific objectives and a constitution. Dr. Sultana S. Zaman was the Convenor of the first.
Organizing Committee and Mr. D.P Barua, Mrs. Zohura Rahman, Mrs. Salma Huque and Mrs. Hosne Ara Kamal were its Members. This was replaced by a full-fledged Executive Committee as per its constitution in a General Meeting of the Society held on March 23, 1978. The Society was also registered in 1978 with the Social Welfare Directorate of the Government as a voluntary agency. It has since undergone rapid expansion with more and more members, students and increase in its service units/Branches at different parts of Bangladesh. The name of the Society was changed to “Society for the Care and Education of Mentally Retarded, Bangladesh”(SCEMRB) in 1988 with some modification in the constitution to make it a national organization, a form in which it was then already functioning and to change its character as a parent organization. In 1998, the name of the Society was again changed to “Society for the Welfare of the Intellectually Disabled, Bangladesh” (SWID, Bangladesh) to give preference for the words “intellectual disabled/disability” in place of “mental retarded/retardation’. The Society has since been functioning as a federal organization with autonomy to its Branches to pave the way for their fast development and expansion of services for the intellectually disabled.
The main objectives of the Society as per its present constitution are:
· To promote the welfare, care, education, habilitation and rehabilitation of persons with
intellectual disability and to advocate for their cause and rights.
· To assist parents and guardians to provide for the care and welfare of persons with
· To adopt measures for setting up Special Education Classes, Vocational Training Centers,
Sheltered Workshops, Employment Facilities, Residential Homes, Clinics, Teacher
Training Units and colleges, Institutions, Academics and Universities etc. aimed at serving persons with intellectual disability.
· To mobilize support of the government, public bodies, trusts and national and
international societies for the welfare of persons with intellectual disability.
· To bring out publications on intellectual disability, its causes, prevention etc. and
rehabilitation of persons with intellectual disability.
· To establish Branches all over the country to promote further the objectives of the
· To raise fund for the welfare of persons with intellectual disability and to invest the
surplus, if any, in security deposits or other form of safe investment for better use in
future for persons with intellectual disability.
Association with NFU (Norwegian Association for the Mentally Retarded)
The Society (SCEMRB) found its greatest and trusted friend in 1981 when it came into contact with NFPU, Norwegian Parents Organization for the Mentally Retarded. Dr. Sultana S. Zaman visited Norway in April 1981 at the invitation of NFPU and Mr. Sigurd Gohli, Secretary General of NFPU visited Dhaka in June, 1981 with a TV team for an evaluation of our Society’s programmes.
This led to a fraternal collaboration between Bangladesh and Norway and to a glorious time for the Society. NFPU came forward with necessary financial support for not only the existing activities of the Society, but also advised us through a consultant/technical representative for new programmes and for the expansion of our activities with new Branches at different parts of the
country. This lasted for 18 years (from 1982-1999). The Society through its own efforts and NFPU’s supports established 40 Branches throughout the country that are now providing education/training to the intellectually disabled students.
During the years of collaboration NFPU also supported programmes of the Society for training of the teachers and other staffs of the Branches, the training of parents, social workers and other relevant persons. Some teachers of this Society were also trained abroad and/or had international exposure at the expenses of NFPU.
Different kinds of advocacy works and awareness building efforts were also undertaken during this period. National level seminar and conferences were held on was held on most of these years to project the cause of the intellectually disabled on a national scale and to create awareness among professionals and non-professionals and the general people. These national conferences/seminars were on themes as below:
1. Causes of mental retardation and its prevention 1980
2. International Year of Disabled Persons 1981
3. Development of Parents Association for the mentally retarded 1982
4. Prospects for the care, education and rehabilitation of the
mentally retarded in Bangladesh 1983
5. Rehabilitation of the mentally retarded by 2000 A.D. in
6. Legal rights and protection of the mentally retarded persons
in Bangladesh 1985
7. Social rights of the mentally retarded 1986
8. Mental Retardation 1990
9. Role of Government for the welfare of the mentally retarded
in Bangladesh 1991
10. United Nations Convention on the rights of the child, 1989 and
its implementation in Bangladesh for the mentally retarded 1992
11. Education for all: rights of the mentally retarded in Bangladesh 1994
All these national conferences were attended by high profile personalities and professionals of this country including the Head of the Government of the state and govt. and ministers along with secretaries. The press and national media provided good support to the objects of the conferences/of the Society by giving wide publicity.
Activities with International Societies
To align itself with regional and international organizations, the Society has been a member of Asian Federation for the Mentally Retarded (AFMR) which is now renamed as Asian Federation on Intellectual Disabilities (AFID) and of the Inclusion International (previously ILSMH, International League of Societies for the Mental Handicapped). The Society has played very important roles in both of these organizations.
The Society participated and played active role in all the biennial conferences of AFMR with the possible largest delegations from its general members, office bearers and professionals. The 13th Asian Conference on Mental Retardation (ACMR), an international Conference of the members countries of AFMR was held in Dhaka in 1997 when -the president of AFMR was Mrs. Shahar Banu Salam, one of the senior most members of the Society. The Conference was inaugurated by the then Hon’ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. It was attended by 133 foreign delegates from 22 countries and 245 local delegates.
After 20Yers of time in 2017-223rd Conference of AFID was held organized by SWID which Jowaherul Islam Mamun was the President of AFID.
Our Society’s representatives attended different conferences of Inclusion International (ILSMH). Commander (Retd.) A. J. M. Hamed Hossain, a member of the Society was made the Chairman on Asian Affairs at its 11th World Congress held in New Delhi in 1994 and worked as such for 2 years. An intellectually disabled person, Shahen Rasul, trained in Dhaka was chosen as a self advocate and attended its conference held at The Hague, Netherlands in 1998.
Assistance from the donors
The Society could not have undertaken so much and so many different kinds of activities for the intellectually disabled without the support of foreign and local organizations.
In this connection the support of LEV for the education and livelihood skill development training and assistance of the intellectually disabled children of slum areas of Dhaka city and for a rehabilitation project for suitably trained intellectually disabled persons. The Society tried to establish and run permanent commercial factories for the empowerment of the rehabilitation of the intellectually disabled with this support.
Bishop Bekkars Foundation of the Netherlands gave the technical support for the development of the physiotherapy unit and for the training of professionals in this field in Netherlands, Germany and England to work as physiotherapists. Oxfam, Caritas are such other organization also cooperate SWID to run the activities. Locally the Society obtained the highest amount of financial help from late Mia Amanullah of Chittagong for the construction of a 2 storeyed building with a sum amounting to Tk.45.00 lac for the Chittagong Branch with a physiotherapy unit and a K.G school for Reverse Integration.
BRAC the largest NGO of our country have also helped SWID and its Branches with big donation. BRAC is also helping the SWID to educate the educable unreached intellectually disabled children through its Non-Formal Primary Schools in unreached areas of the country.
Other important local donors for specific purposes are National Life Insurance Co. (NLI) for the annual sports of Society, A.F. Mojibur Rahaman Foundation, M/S Shaw Wallace Bangladesh Ltd. Mrs. Tahera Huque and others, Nestle Bangladesh Ltd., M/S Fakhruddin & Sons.
All the factors collectively and individually have to be considered for future programmes.
The rehabilitation of those who are EMPLOYED with jobs in urban areas, needs not only special/suited training but also co-operation from and follow-ups by their parents/professionals under agreed programme. Those who are not rehabilitated need to be identified at the earliest and appropriate programmes for them have to be determined by consultation with their guardians. Again most of those who are educable can be put in normal schools under special arrangements and with training/understanding with the involved teachers and the school authority. Rehabilitation of such children can be accomplished with necessary step in the disability rights and Protection Law-2013 and NDD Trust Law-2013.
SWID is trying to determine the further appropriate measures and programmes and modifications in the existing programmes suitable for our country. It is expected that SWID will play its role for the evaluation of necessary changes and for their implementation to accelerate the development of the intellectually disabled in Bangladesh.
SWID Bangladesh is now running schools, training events, vocational and technical education, therapeutic activities, counselling operating NIIDA and special college for the teachers. Now a days SWID is planning to establish a specialized University and open post-graduation program on Disability with NDDs under the department of SWID NIIDA.
Formation of other auxiliary organizations
SWID has also been responsible for the formation of 2 other independent organizations to serve the cause of the intellectually disabled. These are:
Manoshik Pratibondhi Kalyan Trust, Bangladesh (MPKTB): This was formed by SWID to-work as a Trust for welfare activities for the intellectually disabled persons. This was registered in 1994 as a separate organization and is run by its Board of Trustees as per its own constitution under the guidance and supervision of SWID. Now it has changed the name from MPKTB to TWID Bangladesh
Special Olympic, Bangladesh: This organization works for the participation of intellectually disabled persons in World Special Olympics etc founded by SWID Bangladesh. It was registered in 1993 and is now run by its own Management Body.
SWID is now 45 years old. It has acquired a good experience over these years from its activities persons with Neuro-developmental disabilities. The condition of the intellectually disabled persons in the urban and rural areas and from the rich and poor families are better known. A fair knowledge has been acquired on the ways was gaining practical experience by which the education/training for them can be catered. Ways for reaching the unreached intellectually disabled person in remote areas of the country have been explored.
Pratibondhi Kalyan Ain 2001, was initiative initiated for the disabled. It’s being examined for improvement and steps for effectiveness. Pratibonhi Unnayan Foundation has also started functioning. The Govt. have issued instructions for the adoption of some welfare measures for the disabled persons. The impact from these are yet to be seen. After observing the limitations gap and weaken of the Law the activities of SWID and other organization raise the issue to reform the law with appropriate correction and modification by this time UNCRPD has approved in 2006. In accordance with the proclamation of Independence of Bangladesh in 10th April 1971 and with the guiding principle of Bangladesh Constitution in 1972 and UNCRPD, NFOWD in also with SWID . A Draft of Disability Right and Protection Law was made and submitted to the members of the Bangladesh Parliament, ministry of Law, Ministry of Social welfare and Law commissions. After a long time in 2013 the law has enacted. As a result of positive awareness building about the sad plight of the intellectually disabled the local bodies along with the rich and benevolent persons are extending their helping hands better than before. The advocacy works of the SWID through the Mass media are also removing the wrong notion about sociability and employability of most of them. But Bangladesh is not like an advanced welfare state, there is no national insurance here. Further, we are yet to fully implement the “education for all” programme even for the normal children. The health sector is far behind than in the developed countries. Hence the parents and guardians have to play a greater role for their wards than what is required in a modern welfare state. They have to play the role of the pressure group for the intellectually disabled.
The silver jubilee celebration of the Society is therefore an appropriate occasion for evaluating the acquired knowledge’s and experiences and the present situation, for determining appropriate further programmes for the welfare of the intellectually disabled.
The Society and its Branches have intellectually disabled persons of very different ages, some 5/6 years and some from the beginning of the Society and therefore aged about 40 years or more. A few of them are even married and have children. They are also with different back ground and have different degree of intellectual disability or even multi-disability. There are therefore, very different type of people together in the same class/institution and at the same hours which calls for