ProjectDebi: The Story of a Youth Organisation Advocating for Gender Sensitivity


Sabik Jawad


As Bangladesh turns 50, she still has not delivered on the promise she was born out of. Our grandparents fought with the hope of living in an egalitarian society, free from exploitation by their fellow citizens. However, it seems that freedom is not guaranteed, particularly on the basis of gender.

ProjectDebi was founded with the intention of fulfilling this promise. It aims to do that by educating our youth about gender sensitivity—particularly by informing them about the rights of women, their anatomy, and their contributions. Not only that, throughout its two years of existence, but ProjectDebi has also organised self-defence workshops, arranged informational seminars, put together fundraisers for social causes, and provided victims with a voice.

The story of ProjectDebi starts with its name. Its founder, Muhammad Abrar, believes that every woman has a goddess with exceptional power hidden within herself. However, these women are being subdued and their voices silenced. Abrar, along with his friends Tazreen, Sakib, Naomi, and Maliha, started ProjectDebi as an online platform; primarily allowing victims of sexual abuse to anonymously share their stories without fearing social stigmas.

By creating this platform, ProjectDebi attempted to educate people about the brutality of gender-based violence including sexual violence against men, intersex, and transgender people. They help people better understand the severity of the situation by looking through the victim’s eyes and their painful experiences. They also use surveys about sexual harassment and menstrual hygiene to increase public access to information about these topics. 

 

As time passed, ProjectDebi took its fight to the streets. As part of its Pinktober campaign, the team raised awareness about breast cancer by talking to both students and working-class women. They also launched a campaign to educate people about sexual harassment and spoke to people from all walks of life. From the local tea stall owner to the rickshaw puller, they encouraged the common mass to speak up whenever they witnessed sexual harassment. On International Women’s Day, the team distributed roses and notes as a token of appreciation to the women in our communities; our mothers, sisters, and daughters. 

 

Recently, ProjectDebi has organised the second instalment of its exhibition Revolutioনারী, a celebration of womanhood. The exhibition helped raise funds for an organisation that aims to make sanitary napkins 50% cheaper and help flood victims, and school children so that they can afford books. Not only that, but the Revolutioনারী team also bought 6 syringes of doses for little Rokeya, a 14-month-old child whose parents couldn’t afford the expensive doses for curing her brain tumour. They also helped an underprivileged daughter to save her father through immediate medical attention that required hefty fees. ProjectDebi is not new to raising funds for people in crisis. They have raised funds for over 400 hijra people during Ramadan as part of Tader Tore, a collaboration with TransEnd and Oroddho Foundation; and also donated money to two women who couldn’t run their families due to losing their jobs during the pandemic.

Currently, ProjectDebi is contributing to ProjectPathshala, a joint initiative by Alokito Shishu and Kandari, to help rebuild a school which was destroyed by the cyclone Amphan. They also plan to start working on sexual education and increasing awareness about female genital mutilation in Bangladesh. 

Celebrating two years of ProjectDebi, Abrar says, “With ProjectDebi, I dream to see a safer world for women and children out there. A world where they have equal opportunities, equal rights, and equal treatment. I want to see a new generation where they claim possession over their bodies and minds and no one has the power to take this right from them. I want to see a new generation that grows into beauty and enlightenment where women run the world standing next to men. I want to see a new generation which wants to see a better generation than them.”

 

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