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Uttaron: Helping tea workers overcome daunting odds

Hardship and struggle are the only constants in the lives of the labour communities living around the tea gardens of Maulvibazar. Even the mere dream of a slightly better life is a daydream itself. Most families cannot send their children to school because it’s impossible for them to carry the expenses of education in less than Tk100 daily wage.

As a teenager, Anumoy Bharma had to conquer all kinds of barriers to reach the threshold of higher education. But not for a moment he forgot the struggle of his peers. He felt that lack of education was the major cause of impoverishment among the labour communities. So, with help from some like-minded youth, he formed “Uttaron” (meaning advancement) to change the lives of the people in his community.

Since 2013, Uttaron has been helping the tea garden labour community fight against the everyday odds including lack of education and poverty. Despite little funding, they continued a number of initiatives to sensitize the community about their right to education. And in the process, over the last few years, participation of children and adult in education has risen quite a bit.

Young Bangla acknowledged Uttaron’s exemplary initiatives by giving them the Joy Bangla Youth Award 2017 in the community development category.

Uttaron’s initiatives are run solely on the contribution of its members. They now have 28 active members who look after various initiatives of the organization.

“The taboo against education in the minds of the labour communities must be removed first. The next thing in our list is instilling confidence among the students,” said Anumoy.

Starting with distributing learning materials, they have gone on to do organize workshops with children and their parents. They have also been rewarding meritorious students for a number of years now.

The “Inter Tea Garden Math Olympiad” is their flagship program being organized every year since 2015. So far, nearly 10,000 students have participated in those events and received awards and certificates. The members of Uttaron also pertain basic ICT to the students using their personal laptops. As turnover suggests, this initiative is highly appreciated by local children and youth. The “Uttaron Public Library” is yet another initiative that has been very popular since its inception in 2013.

“We have observed that all our initiatives have had cumulative impacts on the lives of the tea garden workers. But our members are not complacent about what they are doing,” said Anumoy.

Uttaron now has a farm footing as a social organization in the tea gardens and is putting together future plans like setting up a formal school and an ICT training centre for children of poor households of the tea-gardens.