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     Volume 4 Issue 15 | October 2, 2004 |

   Cover Story
   News Notes
   A Roman Column
   Human Rights
   In Retrospect
   Time Out
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   Book Review
   Dhaka Diary
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weaving by half a century


For centuries, people have been struggling for their right to be free and independent. Women, even today, have to battle it out to get their voices heard and expressions considered. As Napoleon said, the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world. However, it's a shame to still see this so-called weaker sex struggling to come up and face their counterparts, men, who, since the origin of mankind have been ruling the elements of nature, the ways of the world, and controlling the female species.

Fifty years ago, on 19 of October 19, 1954, when the then East Pakistan was plunging into a disastrous flood, destroying homes and lands, a group of local and foreign ladies from the different embassies and UN offices in Dhaka and Narayanganj established what we know today as the Women's Voluntary Association. Initially, the association was called the Women's Voluntary Services, headed by Dr. Madeline Pinkerton, a British doctor, and senior advisor of the Maternal and Child Health Care at Dhaka. The first committee formed under Dr. Pinkerton began by helping the distraught, the flood-stricken and the poor. Emphasis was placed on the status of women, especially women with no homes, providing them with financial and emotional support.

On September 24, 2004, celebrating its Golden Jubilee at Hotel Sonargaon, WVA focused on the many activities that the organisation has been working on for the past 50 years. Present president of WVA, Ruby Rahman, spoke about the number of needy and homeless women and for the children who now have homes, thanks to the various opportunities created for these women to work and children to educate themselves. President of Bangladesh, Dr. Iajuddin Ahmed and Minister for Cultural Affairs, Selina Begum, who were present at the inaugural ceremony of the two day programme, appreciated the fact that WVA has been working their way towards enhancing our culture.

Baby Land, an income generating group, sells children's clothes made by underprivileged women. The committee pays the workers and keeps a minimum profit for the WVA.

WVA's Disabled Children's Residential Centre, is probably the most prominent project of all. This centre provides food, shelter, education, and medical and physiotherapy treatment for needy, physically handicapped children between the ages of five to 12.

The Disabled Children's Day Clinic's main objective is to give free treatment to the disabled children.

Among all the special projects run by WVA, the Education Group is very important. The committee runs and manages three primary schools, where about 450 students, mostly girls, are being educated.

In Family Planning, the group's fundamental task is to create awareness of family planning among the distressed and helpless women. Recently, a Free Friday Clinic was established where these women are given free advice regarding childbirth and family planning.

The Sewing Group has been displaying the women's extraordinary talent in embroidery and various kinds of needle-work.

The Vocational Committee supports around 35 girls every year, where they are trained in sewing, computers and nursing.

The WVA has come a long way in the last 50 years. Needless to say, the Association still has many more steps to take and many more hurdles to jump through. But the success of its various projects proves that the desire to help others when channelled by organisational efficiency and determination.



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