Bangladeshi disabilities activist gets Unesco award

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News desk: Vashkar Bhattacharjee, a visually impaired Bangladeshi national, was awarded the UNESCO/Emir Jaber al Ahmad al Jaber al Sabah Prize for Digital Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities for 2018-19.

This was the first time ever that a Bangladeshi had received such prestigious award, said the Embassy of Bangladesh in Paris on Tuesday.

The award carries a monetary prize of US$ 20,000 and was given to him in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the empowerment of persons with disabilities through the application of ICT to access information and knowledge.

Sheikh Mubarak Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, the representative of the Kuwaiti Government handed over the prize to him at a ceremony organised in observance of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities at UNESCO Headquarters on Monday.

Bhattacharjee is credited for successfully developing Bangladesh’s first Accessible Dictionary in four forms, dedicated to persons with visual, print and learning disabilities.

He is currently working for ‘Young Power in Social Action, a registered NGO based in Chattaogram.

He has also served as National Consultant for Accessibility to Information (a2i) Program of the Government of Bangladesh.

In 2016, Vashkar Bhattacharjee received a national award from the Honourable Prime Minister for his contribution for people with disability using digital technology.

The Prize created in 2002 and supported by the State of Kuwait is given in individual and organisational category every two years in recognition of contribution for the promotion of quality education and raise awareness about the right to education of persons with disabilities.

Tencent, a private sector enterprise from China was the recipient of the Prize in organisational category.

Vashkar thanked prime minister Sheikh Hasina noting that the PM had given them chance to make inclusive and barrier free ICT environment for the people with disability.

Saima Wazed Hossain, chairperson of National Advisory Committee on Autism and a Member of WHO Expert Advisory Panel on Mental Health attended the award ceremony.

She also participated as a discussant at the Roundtable ‘Empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality’ held on the occasion of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities at UNESCO.

Saima Hossain also served on the Jury Board of the Prize.

Taking part in the discussion, she said fundamental obstacle in addressing challenges to disability was changing the mindset of people, breaking the norms of working in isolation and engaging in dialogue in the society amongst all stakeholders including the people with disabilities.

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