As part of the WPSP program, five Bangladeshi students were provided the opportunity to visit one of the BNWLA shelter homes.
Shelter homes are safe places where victimized women and children come under the supervision of law and can stay until their case is in the court. The Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Associations (BNWLA) has four shelter homes under their supervision. Only those working with BNWLA have the address of the shelter homes; the address is kept secret from the public. The major reasons behind this secrecy are to ensure privacy and protection to the alleged victim women or children, as well as saving the victims from facing the stigmatization of the society. After a case is filed in the court, if the court orders to keep the client or the alleged in a safe custody, BNWLA brings the person to the shelter home. BNWLA then becomes the legal guardian for that person until the case is solved. Usually, the clients are either rape victims or victims of trafficking. In this case, for the restoration of the victims, BNWLA ensures psycho-social counseling for their clients. The psycho-social counseling center is situated in Dhaka. In addition to counseling, education facility and vocational training, along with fundamental requirements like accommodation and food facility, are also ensured as part of the restoration program of the shelter homes. In this case, the shelter home provides facilities for informal education where a female teacher teaches the students. However, the home cannot assure their clients with formal education because of the security and the unavailability of the national certificate related issue. Owing to the lack of resources, it becomes difficult for the shelter homes to ensure security during transportation to all the victims under their care who are mostly children. An exceptional case in the shelter home, however, is a girl child of grade seven. Her eagerness for education reflected by her acquisition of highest G.P.A in the primary school board exam made the shelter home to assign a guard for the child so that she can securely move in between shelter home and her school. In addition, most of the victims’ nationality certificates are hard to obtain for which their enrollment to formal education becomes challenging.
Besides education, the shelter home provides sewing and dress designing training as part of their vocational training program. In this case, the shelter home also informs its wish to provide its clients with computer literacy training which is still not possible to ensure due to the limited financial assistance the home attains. Furthermore, BNWLA also initiates negotiation process with the client’s family to accept the victim again as a part of the family after the final hearing in the court. Additionally, the association works on ensuring economic empowerment to the victims. In this case, according to the educational background or vocational knowledge of the victims, BNWLA tries to ensure job opportunities to them. Moreover, if the victim women or children are not accepted in their family or they don’t have any place to go, then the BNWLA negotiates with the companies that provide hostel facilities for their low paid employees.
A particular issue that stands out above is the fear of the shelter homes about the society’s approach to stigmatize. In this case, society addresses questions that demand reasoning behind keeping a lot of female children under one roof. In this case, a better proposed solution could be a policy implication that requires court to inform the local area commissioners about the specialty and privacy of the shelter homes. This can lead the local representative to take initiatives, respecting the privacy of the shelter homes, which would ensure security to the shelter homes from being subjected to negative queries.
Apart from that, the quality of the resources in the provision of informal education and vocational training can be enhanced with small student led initiatives. Here, we think AUW students can play a role to help them. We can collect donation, and buy these four shelter houses four computers and train the supervisors or the home teacher about how to operate and teach students to use different computer applications. Moreover, they don’t have good English books facilities, so an AUW student visiting shelter home plans to collect old English books from students of Chittagong and donate it to the BNWLA.