Story of Golden Girl Parul

Monday 31 August 2015

Parul is a girl with intellectual disability.  She belongs to a poor family with no agricultural land. They just have a hut on a small piece of land where the family lives. Her father is a rickshaw-van puller and her mother Aklima Begum is a housewife. Between her brother and herself, Parul is the younger. They live in a village under Dhamrai sub-district some 40 km away from the capital Dhaka. Parul came to Kalyani Inclusive School at Dhamrai when she was only 5. Later Save the Children’s partner BPF (Bangladesh Protibondhi Foundation) assessed her and identified her as mildly intellectually disabled. She was also malnourished at that time. Following the service management action plan, BPF started giving different types of services according to her need.

Parul had to face lots of challenges in her life. Just because of being a girl child she was neglected in her family. Moreover, when her intellectual disability was identified negligence towards her  increased. She was also unreasonably considered as a lunatic in the community. Community people especially members of extended family blamed her mother for giving birth to such a girl. Her mother had to face the risk of divorce. Parul was discriminated even in daily meals with her brother. Her family was not interested to send her to school. BPF visited her family to provide home based service (Psychosocial support) to raise awareness in the community so that they send her to school. Besides these, BPF helped her family in repairing their house to ensure protection of Parul and also bought a rickshaw-van for her father by the Income Generating Activities (IGA) program. After starting school it was seen that she was more interested in games and sports especially in swimming rather than study. At first BPF arranged her swimming practice in the local pond to increase her capacity. Soon she started participating in National level competitions and won many medals which inspired her significantly.

Simultaneously, she continued her study and completed her primary education. Her parents became happier and were eager to get her enrolled in a mainstream school to continue her further education. In this new school she  faced difficulty to adjust in the new environment. She became a victim of bullying by her classmates and also teachers of this school neglected her because of her disability. She felt like she was abandoned while at the school. As a result she was not interested to go to school anymore and became frustrated. After starting project BPF had a great opportunity to mitigate this matter by working with tteachers, students, parents and community people. Under Save the Children’s "Community-based Protection and Empowerment of Children with Disabilities" project, BPF arranged meeting, training, workshop, theater show (TfD) and also incorporated Community Watch Group in this matter. BPF continued these programs and a significant change was seen in their attitude and then they accepted Parul easily. Now Parul is enjoying her school in a safe and protected environment. Moreover Parul is a member of Child Club and vocational unit.

When Parul was selected for Special Olympics she got structured training at national level. To participate in Special Olympics she needed to be assessed by a psychologist to verify her disability. For this reason before going to Special Olympics in 2013 and 2015 she was re-assessed by specialized service center under Save the Children’s PEP project as implemented by BPF. 

Parul has been participating in Special Olympics since 2011 and PEP project acted as one of the most influencing factors. From the Special Olympics, Parul has brought fame for Bangladesh too. 

  • 1 Bronze medal in 2011 in Greece
  • 2 Gold medals and 1 bronze medal in 2013 in Australia
  • 1 Gold medal in 2015 in USA

Because of  these achievements Parul has been able to establish her own position in the society. Now her family, teachers, friends and the community feel proud of her. Parul’s mother says, “previously I was known as mother of a lunatic girl. But now people know me as mother of a girl who achieved gold medal. I am very grateful to BPF.” Parul’s father couldn’t be any prouder  “now I am not just a van driver, I am Parul’s father”, he boasts. 

“now I am not just a van driver, I am Parul’s father”