Bangladesh Business & Disability Network (BBDN) organised a two-day online job fair for persons with disabilities starting from 26 January.
The fair was arranged by the cooperation of the European Union-backed ILO Skills 21 project and the FCDO-funded Innovation to Inclusion (i2i) project where the technical support provided by the Aspire to Innovate (a2i) program of the Bangladesh Government and Bdjobs. The goal of this fair was to connect qualified persons with disabilities with employers by leveraging technology to enhance their employment opportunities.
Under the ILO's Skills 21 project, the aim is to increase the employment-oriented skills and jobs for persons with disabilities through their inclusion in technical education. In this regard, In this regard, seven government technical education and training institutes and two teacher training centers of the country are being transformed into model institutions. These organizations are attempting to raise awareness among local students with disabilities, their parents, teachers of institutions and local employers about the benefits of inclusion of students with disabilities in technical education and in the workplace. They are also working to raise awareness to make the institutes accessible to persons with disabilities and create employment for them.
The inaugural ceremony of the fair was held on 26th January. In the welcome speech, Mr. Ardashir Kabir President, Bangladesh Employers Federation & Chairman, Bangladesh Business & Disability Network thanked everyone for attending the event and said that BBDN's launched itself as a welfare trust of the Bangladesh Employers Federation with a view to include persons with disabilities in the labor market of Bangladesh. Since its inception, it has been working on the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the work under the Rights and Protection Act of 2013 and tirelessly trying to employ persons with disabilities in table-based and technology-based jobs in different private companies. Mr. Ardashir encouraged the employers who attended in fair, to move forward with the goal of making their organization accessible to people with disabilities and creating an inclusive workplace.
Zaheer-bin-Siddique, Country Representative of Leonard Cheshire, in his special guest speech said about the Innovation to Inclusion (i2i) project, as two consortium members, The Bangladesh Business and Disability Network (BBDN) and the International Labor Organization (ILO) are playing a vital role in the implementation of the i2i project. The project aims to improve the skills of persons with disabilities and create inclusive employment in the private sector. He mentioned that "there has always been a lack of a central database for persons with disabilities in Bangladesh and at the very beginning of this project, we considered how technology might be utilized to develop the skills of individuals with disabilities and offer them work in the private sector. For the first time, with the support of bdjobs, we developed a job portal namely i2i Career Advisor exclusively for people with disabilities as a part of this project where persons with disabilities can register themselves on this job portal with their Subarnagarik card number."
Fahim Mashroor, Managing Director and CEO at Bdjobs said his speech that he would like to express his sincere gratitude to the organizers of this fair, including BBDN, for taking such an initiative and for connecting Bdjobs with it. It is a landmark example and a milestone in the creation of employment for persons with disabilities. It is true that our economic sector was significantly affected by the Covid epidemic, but the increasing use of technology came as a blessing, especially for people with disabilities. They are getting the opportunity to join the work from home, which is removing the obstacle of their movement.
Mostafa Azad Chowdhury, Senior Vice President, Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) said in his special guest speech, we as business associations, have a moral responsibility. He assured that if a complete list of persons with disabilities along with the details of their skills and location is shared with FBCCI, they will take initiative to arrange employment for persons with disabilities by contacting other chambers of commerce.
Dr. Md. Omar Faruque, Director General, Directorate of Bangladesh Technical Education was also present as special guest. He stated that the Ministry of Education is in charge of a substantial portion of the government's special programs for persons with disabilities. The technical education department's tagline is "skill development." The philosophy that we cherish in our minds about persons with disabilities is that persons with disabilities are a part of this society and their rights should be well established in this society. To this end, we have formed the Technical Education Board Disability Inclusion Advisory Group. There are available refresher training and a 5% quota in technical education for persons with disabilities. Their information is kept in the Job Placement Cell for employment purposes so that employers can hire them using that information. Each technical education institution has a focal person who works in this regard.
Tuomo Poutiainen, Country Director, International Labour Organization (ILO) in Bangladesh mentioned that around the world, the ILO is working to create a socially just and decent working environment. The ILO is working with the Government of Bangladesh, employers and trade unions to ensure skills development, employment, and a conducive environment in the workplace for persons with disabilities so that their disability will not be an obstacle.
Dr. Dewan Muhammad Humayun Kabir, Project Director (Joint Secretary), Aspire to Innovate (a2i) said in his special guest speech, The fact that we are all being together on one platform today demonstrates our commitment to working on disability issues. About 7-10% of the total population of Bangladesh has some sort of disability. Persons with disabilities who have the opportunity to work already prove that they are no less proficient than people who are not disabled. Giving opportunities to these people increases the brand value of the organization, which can be a matter of consideration for any organizations. I would like to thank the 60 private organizations to have stepped forward to provide job opportunities to persons with disabilities based on their skills at this event. He mentioned that, With the support of a2i Learning Platform (muktopaath), accessible learning materials are offered for all sorts of persons with disabilities. To ensure that everyone has access to information, all government websites have been made accessible to all sorts of persons with disabilities. The a2i is working in accordance with the Prime Minister's promise and the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) aim of "no one left behind."
Vashkar Bhattachariya, National consultant-Accessibility Aspire to Innovate (a2i) announced the end of the event with thanks and said the government and we are all working together to create inclusive employment for persons with disabilities in Bangladesh in line with the political manifesto of the Bangladesh government, Bangabandhu's dream and the goals of the SDGs.. We will continue to work together to ensure that no one is left behind, and we hope that under the 2013 Rights and Protection Act, no disabled person in Bangladesh will be denied the right to work in the future.
Aziza Ahmed, Head of Operations, Bangladesh Business and Disability Network, moderated the whole event.