A story by the Tauri Foundation, Bangladesh
The life of Afia Kabir Anila is full of struggle, determination and achievements. She is a volunteer of Tauri Foundation,Bangladesh currently a student of Law in North South University, a disability rights activist & motivational speaker and a recipient of “Distressed Children International’s (DCI) Young Leadership award in 2017 in the USA. She also received “Successful Person with Disabilities 2019” award handed over by the Honb’le Prime Minister of Bangladesh.
Her birth brought unfathomable joy and happiness to her parents. But soon the joy turned in to heart breaking frustration and agony when she was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. They felt hopeless but their indomitable love made them determined never to give up. Because Anila is a special child, starting her early schooling was difficult as no regular school accepted her to enroll. Her parents had to visit almost every regular school in Dhaka. Even being satisfied with her interview, a renowned school regretted her. Some schools denied her admission on the ground that if she was admitted in their school, they would lose other students as some thought her disability was contagious. After repeated request one school agreed to interview her and after being satisfied with her interview, they enrolled her and that was where her real journey started. She was performing well and promoted one class to another. In one occasion when her classroom was shifted, the school authority allocated a space for her in front of the toilet door (as they had no sitting options for wheelchair-bound students). So, she had to change her school. She is so unfortunate that she didn’t get the opportunity to study in the good schools of Dhaka due to her disabilities, though her parents were able to bear the expenses.
After a couple of years of regular schooling when she became eligible to sit for O and A Level exams, she faced tremendous problems. For example, British Council provided her a scribe of different background and as a consequence she had to face difficulties in communication during her exam. So, her knowledge did not reflect in her results, though she had been working very hard. She expresses her frustration – “I attended the school regularly but I can’t write and stand. Many times at school people can’t understand me. I have a woman who writes for me but often she doesn’t understand and I have to spell out the words.
As a member of Global Children Panel of Save the Children UK, she talked in the Global Children Panel Members’ meeting held in London in 2011 and they accepted her proposal to work for the education of children with disabilities.
In 2012 at the age of 14 she attended an international conference on disability in Goa, India. 200 delegates from different parts of the world joined the conference and she was the youngest participant. Comments made by the organizers on her speech reads – “The person who stole the show on the third day is also the youngest delegate in the conference – 14 year old Anila from Bangladesh. Holding the audience in rapt attention for 10 minutes, this spunky girl who has cerebral palsy said in slow but intelligible English, ‘It is painful when I go to the market and people stare. I am not included in schools. I have seen my mother cry so many times due to this.’ The young age has not come into the way of her asserting her fundamental rights as she has been instrumental in bringing disability into the purview of the globally reputed organization ‘Save The Children’.
Presently along with her study of Law in a reputed university, she delivers talk on child hygiene, nutrition and importance of health care for children with disabilities in rural areas of Bangladesh. She believes that that seeing her physically the rural parents would develop a confidence that their special children can also become like her.