Bandhu aim has been to improve the health (including SRHR), human rights and social position of gender-diverse people (GDP) in Bangladesh.
Bandhu Social Welfare Society(Bandhu) is a community led organization which was founded in 1996 and formally registered with the Ministry of Social Welfare (MOSW) and the NGO Affairs Bureau in July 1997.
Gender-diverse people or the gender-diverse population refers to all people in Bangladesh who are not cisgender heterosexuals (even though many if not most of them will end up being married to the opposite sex, for reasons of societal expectation and familial pressure).
GDP therefore includes gay men and other men who have sex with men, hijra, transgender men and women, intersex people, lesbian women and other women who have sex with women, bisexual people, et cetera. Bandhu’s program interventions on health (mainly SRHR), human rights and social services are currently implemented through 37 field health centers in 22 districts and in collaboration with over 30 partner CBOs across the country.
As is obligatory and common in Bangladesh, Bandhu’s organizational vision & mandates and operations are in concurrence and alignment with guidance provided by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW) and MOSW. Bandhu’s strategic mandate over the past decades have largely been in correspondence with the priorities outlined in wider policy frameworks, including the National Strategic Plan for HIV/AIDS of Bangladesh, and with national and global social development milestone indicators such as the Health Population and Nutrition Sectoral Program (HPNSP) in the area of HIV/AIDS & SRHR. During the 25 years of its existence Bandhu has significantly contributed to the Bangladeshi government’s efforts to attain some of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
Over the past decades, Bandhu has faced and overcome many challenges and barriers in its efforts to scale up universal access to HIV and Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) services for GDP. Many of these barriers are rooted in the denial of human rights to GDP, in particularly the stigma, discrimination and gender-based violence (GBV) they face in Bangladeshi society. These challenges are continuing to hamper access to health care, educational and training opportunities and livelihood options, as well as access to other basic citizen services rights for GDP in Bangladesh.
Despite these challenges, Bandhu has become the prime organization safeguarding and promoting the health, SRHR, Human Rights and wellbeing of GDP in Bangladesh, and is now highly valued and trusted both by GDP communities and by society as a whole. Some of its recent achievements include the establishment by the National Human Rights Commission of a separate committee to deal with TGW issues along with other minority 16 groups in the country. Also, as a result of the successful policy advocacy of Bandhu, the National Curriculum and Textbook Board of Bangladesh has agreed to incorporate third gender issues in the Supplementary Reading Material for the students of class IX and above. The review process of the curriculum under NCTB is making progress, aiming to incorporate the Hijra community. In addition, supplementary Reading Material was produced for class VI.
Bandhu’s efforts have resulted in the adoption of training packages regarding national health services for Government doctors to sensitize them when providing STI services to GDP; these modules were developed by WHO and UNDP. Bandhu was also instrumental in incorporating sexual and gender diversity issues into the National Strategy for Adolescent Health Bangladesh as a separate strategic objective. Bandhu has also played an instrumental role in increasing the sensitivity of the government, different ministries and national institutions like the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to the plight and needs of GDP. The NHRC included sexual minorities as a group needing attention in its second Strategic Plan (2016-20). Bandhu has also been successful in influencing the National Psychosocial Counselling Policy, the National Legal Aid Services Organization and the Central Bank of the country to have greater responsiveness to the needs of sexual and gender diversity vis-a-vis their respective jurisdictions. Bandhu currently is a sub-recipient for the Global Fund HIV program, implementing interventions for MSM and hijra. It is slowly becoming a ‘parent organization’ for a series of smaller CBOs, and provides an umbrella function for these in terms in provision of technical and financial support. For example, the hijra community-led organizations ‘Badhon Hijra Sangha’ as SSR under Bandhu, and ‘Shustha Jibon’, a hijra CBO are implementing five and two service centers for MSM and TGW, respectively. Moreover, an additional five hijra and MSM CBOs are directly involved in program implementation.
The quality and trust that Bandhu has come to represent in recent years has been rewarded by ISO certification in 2015 for the quality of its work. Bandhu’s service models have been recognized as a best practice model by UNAIDS and the AmfAR Foundation USA, and in 2017 Bandhu was awarded the prestigious regional HERO award from the Asia-Pacific Coalition on Male Sexual Health (APCOM) for being the best communitybased organization in the region. It also received the Ardhanareeswara award from Rainbow Sky Association of Thailand (RSAT) for its outstanding performance and contribution for the SOGIE community in the human rights field and health care service throughout Asia Pacific.
- Bandhu works towards ensuring a dignified life for gender diverse populations by protecting human rights, promoting a sustainable livelihood, improving access to quality health care including SRHR, and enhancing access to social security and gender justice.
- Bandhu envisions a society where people from all gender identities are enjoying quality life.
Bandhu’s Core Values
- Gender Diversity: Bandhu is committed to value gender diverse population in all their diversities i.e. class, age, religion, ethnicity, culture, language, caste, class, HIV status, profession, identity and convictions by integrating an intersectional approach.
- Confidentiality: Bandhu respects the right to privacy and confidentiality of gender diverse populations, including their defenders.
- Quality of Care (Service): Bandhu aims to promote and provide Quality of Care in services that are built on principles of gender equality & equity, inclusiveness 25 and human rights. These services should be non-discriminatory and non-judgmental.
- Transparency, accountability and Good Governance: Bandhu works on principles of transparency, openness, accountability and integrity.
- Reduce inequality and discrimination: Our commitment is to reduce stigma and discrimination in all its forms.
- Innovation: We are committed to learn from past experience and wisdom of others in order to innovate and improve our efforts.
Bandhu’s Development Pillar
At present 5th Strategic Framework (5th SF) we have not defined the development pillar. In the 5th SF we are define the four key strategies rather than call development pillar
The 4 Key strategy of Bandhu under the 5th Strategic Framework.
- Human Rights (Improving the human rights situation of GDP)
- Health and SRHR (Improving access to health care services)
- Livelihood (Improve livelihoods by enhancing capacity)
- Sustainability (Ensuring long-term sustainability by empowering GDP)