Salma: a story of hope and transformation

Stories | March 1, 2022

It’s that time of the year again when we get to share stories of remarkable women as part of our series for International Women’s Day.

The first woman is Salma – a strong woman from Bangladesh who has overcome the barriers of her disability to become a role model for transformation and change.

“I hope my story of transformation will inspire other persons with disabilities and those who think that we are ‘good for nothing’.”

Salma became a person with a physical disability after becoming ill from polio at a younger age. She would often be teased and treated as a burden by her family, having no say in family matters – even if those matters were about her.

Salma’s life changed the day a staff member from a CBM Australia-supported project told her about Self-Help Groups (SHGs). CBM have been supporting partners in Bangladesh to implement a project focusing on promoting the rights of people with disabilities. By working with and strengthening SHGs, people with disabilities, like Salma, have gained the confidence and knowledge to become change agents, advocating for their rights.

After joining the SHG and participating in a month-long leadership training program – a decision which she says was the “turning point” in her life – Salma started advocating to government representatives for greater disability inclusion. She built strong relationships with government officials and community leaders, creating a space where she can raise disability issues and work with them to find solutions.

“Now I am living my life to the fullest. I never imagined that my life would have such a transformation. I believe, transformation happens only when we work for it and remain committed. If provided with required support, we can prove that we are equal to others in the society,” says Salma.

Some of Salma’s main achievements include getting five acres of government-owned land to grow rice on and splitting the proceeds evenly between SHG members. She’s also worked hard on assisting victims of sexual harassment to access legal support – a process which she says has been helped by the training she received on gender and child safeguarding.

In recognition of her excellent work and commitment to disability rights, Salma was elected as President of the SHG and SHG federation. She has also received a motorised tricycle from the project, giving her the freedom to move around much easier, and is running a shop in town.

CBM acknowledges the support of the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).

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