Bangladesh’s model in responding to those suffering autism and their families is a ‘unique, multi-faceted and multi-sectoral’ one, says Saima Wazed Hossain.
“Bangladesh can take pride in the kind of national awareness and planning as well as international advocacy that it has invested in tackling this problem for the last seven years.
“It has become evident that mass awareness, backed by political will, can make a difference in the lives of those with autism and other challenges,” she said in her keynote speech at a panel discussion at the UN in New York on Friday.
Hossain is a member of World Health Organisation's Expert Advisory Panel on Mental Health.
The event, co-hosted by the missions of Bangladesh and Qatar, and Autism Speaks and co-sponsored by the missions of India, South Korea and the US, was organised to mark this year’s World Autism Awareness Day that fell on Saturday.
However, Hossain said Bangladesh still had ‘significant challenges’ despite its ‘innovative approach and international leadership in the area of tackling autism’.
She said Bangladesh was also working with the WHO to provide a template for a global strategy to address the neurodevelopment disorder (NDD) in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“We take our international commitments very seriously.”
Better known in Bangladesh by her nickname, Putul, the daughter of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina told the UN panel discussion that Bangladesh government has planned inclusion and integration of those with autism in national development efforts.
“It has been made mandatory for all early childhood centres to include at least two children with disabilities each. The Ministry of Education has also set up a National Autism and NDD Academy.”
“The National Theatre has taken a decision to allow and encourage youth with autism to participate in their regular productions.”
At the beginning of her 12-minute speech, Putul, who also chairs the National Advisory Committee on Autism and Neurodevelopment Disorders, spoke of her mother Hasina’s commitment in ensuring the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities.