Donor agencies have taken commendable steps to promote gender inclusivity in the NGO sector, and this is a positive development. However, there remains a significant loophole in the approach of Bangladeshi NGOs towards gender inclusivity. While they claim to have proportional gender representation within their organizations, their understanding of gender is limited to just men and women. As a consequence, transgender individuals and people of diverse sexual orientations are excluded, leading to discrimination, harassment, and humiliation in these organizations. This article discusses the importance of addressing SOGIESC issues in the NGO sector of Bangladesh to create a truly inclusive and safe society.
The Current State of Gender Inclusivity in Bangladeshi NGOs: Bangladesh’s NGO sector has made strides in acknowledging and addressing gender issues, particularly with respect to women’s empowerment. However, the understanding of gender inclusivity remains restricted to the binary concept of male and female. Transgender individuals and those identifying with diverse sexual orientations are overlooked and often marginalized within these organizations.
The Plight of SOGIESC Workers in NGOs: Unfortunately, Bangladeshi NGOs have not taken proactive measures to support and include SOGIESC workers. Individuals who identify as SOGIESC face the risk of humiliation, harassment, and even job loss if their sexual identity is disclosed. This hostile environment prevents SOGIESC employees from fully contributing to the organization’s mission and hinders their personal and professional growth.
Noboprobhaat Foundation’s Efforts for SOGIESC Rights: Noboprobhaat Foundation, an organization dedicated to SOGIESC rights in Bangladesh, has been actively working for over 5 years to raise awareness and advocate for equality. However, representatives of Noboprobhaat have encountered resistance from other NGOs when it comes to collaborating on SOGIESC-related issues. Many NGOs dismiss SOGIESC concerns as minor and non-essential, perpetuating the misconception that SOGIESC people are a negligible minority in society.
The Impact of Exclusion on SOGIESC Development: By neglecting SOGIESC issues, the NGO sector inadvertently exacerbates the marginalization of the SOGIESC community in Bangladesh. Development initiatives designed without considering the needs and challenges faced by SOGIESC individuals fail to create an equitable and inclusive society. The absence of empathy and understanding from NGO staff further perpetuates discrimination, hindering the overall progress of the SOGIESC community in Bangladesh.
The Call for Change: To achieve a truly inclusive society, it is essential for Bangladeshi NGOs to recognize the significance of SOGIESC inclusion in their work. By addressing SOGIESC issues, NGOs can make a profound impact on the development sector and contribute to the progress of society as a whole. It is crucial for NGOs to go beyond mere token representation and actively foster an environment of acceptance and support for SOGIESC individuals.
Donors’ Role in Promoting Inclusivity: Donor agencies play a pivotal role in funding NGOs and promoting social change. They should take a more proactive approach in evaluating the inclusivity of the organizations they support. Donors must assess whether NGOs genuinely embrace gender inclusivity that goes beyond the binary concept and includes transgender individuals and diverse sexual orientations. Funding decisions should prioritize organizations that demonstrate a commitment to creating safe and inclusive spaces for all genders.
Conclusion: The advancement of the NGO sector in Bangladesh hinges on genuine gender inclusivity that encompasses all genders and sexual orientations. By recognizing and addressing the issues faced by the SOGIESC community, NGOs can create a more equitable and progressive society. Donors must also play their part in fostering true inclusivity by supporting organizations that actively work towards a safe and inclusive environment for all individuals, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation. Together, with concerted efforts, Bangladesh can pave the way for a brighter and more inclusive future for all.