Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), introduced in 2000 as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), were put in place as a resolution to end extreme poverty. Initiated in an effort to tackle a global crisis, the SDGs were put in place to end poverty, protect the planet and, ensure peace and prosperity. With the implementation of seventeen new universally accepted goals, SDGs address more diverse challenges by engaging communities and providing solutions interlinked to have a global impact.
Bangladesh has been growing exponentially throughout the decades and is globally considered a unique success story. The country has developed economically as well as socially. However, with its rapid growth also came a rapid increase in wealth inequality, gender gaps, gender-based violence, and an influx of displaced population. In light of these issues, SAJIDA Foundation – a non-profit organization dedicated to its purpose of bringing health, happiness and dignity for all – stepped in to provide national-level support aligning itself with eight of the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals.
SAJIDA Foundation started off as a small garage school for disadvantaged children in 1987. Syed Humayun Kabir, the Founder of the organization firmly believed in reaching out to those in need, not as an act of charity, but as part of our responsibility. To this day, SAJIDA carries forward the Founder’s legacy and has institutionalized his values of bringing sustainable and meaningful changes in the communities it works with. Accordingly, the organization has strategically outlined eight interwoven goals to align with eight coinciding Sustainable Development Goals and ensure social progress, economic growth, and environmental protection.
Aligned with SDG 3, SAJIDA’s first goal aims to provide healthcare for all. Through the implementation of various programs, initiatives, and partnerships, the foundation takes an all-inclusive approach to healthcare. SAJIDA operates two secondary-care hospitals putting added emphasis on maternal and child healthcare among others. It also works around the clock to address the country’s growing maternal and neonatal mortality rates through its dedicated maternity care and NICU that has delivered over a thousand babies till date. Besides its own interventions, SAJIDA also partnered with local health institutions to provide healthcare through a smart card-based health voucher scheme project. PROSHOMON operates in Feni and Chandpur to provide free healthcare packages for a target population of 66,000 individuals living in extreme poverty. Similarly, SAJIDA’s Malaria Elimination program has been working in two districts to reduce the vulnerability of the local population in terms of mortality and morbidity. On the other hand, to address the lack of human health resources, SAJIDA Hospitals established Institute of Health Sciences (IHS) to develop paramedics and trained caregivers to meet the growing demand for quality healthcare.
SAJIDA Foundation puts equal emphasis on mental health and wellbeing as it does on physical health, providing support on counselling accordingly. Through its various initiatives, the foundation targets different groups helping to alleviate target population. Adhunika Initiatives and Amrao Manush programs serve young women and pavement dwellers respectively, while Psychological Health and Wellness Clinic (PHWC) offers world-class, personalized mental health services. The programs provide trainings, workshops, psycho-social support, psychiatric assessments, and counselling alongside wellness-based activities to both individuals and groups. Ranging from private sessions and expanding to primary and secondary schools, universities, organizations and corporations, SAJIDA ensures an all-inclusive approach to ensuring mental health for all.
UNICEF’s report published in 2014 found that, as many as 10 million children have special needs or disabilities; whereas 2017 had 7.3 million elderly that was predicted to reach 14.6 million by 2025. To cater to these growing numbers, the organization has been dedicatedly working to reduce inequalities through its program Inner Circle Ltd. and Elder Care keeping in line with SDG 3 and 10. The former focuses extensively on providing world-class interventions for children with special needs, especially those with Autism Spectrum Disorder; while the latter offers in-home care for the elderly, disabled, and chronically ill through customized care-packages.
One of the biggest programs under SAJIDA Foundation that largely contribute to SDG 8 is its Microfinance program. Catering to the needs of underserved and underbanked communities, the program ensures development opportunities for the otherwise disadvantaged groups. With its diverse range of loan and savings products, Microfinance caters to a wide range of groups that are often missed out but play a pivotal role in economic development. Through innovation of its different program elements, SAJIDA’s Microfinance offers the lowest rates on loan products in the market.
Its three loan divisions – Suchona, Biborton, and Sonali – accommodate to the poor, micro-enterprises, and small businesses, often referred to as “the new missing middle”. These small businesses play a pivotal role in the contribution of economic development, youth leadership and development, as well as the Sustainable Development Goals. Moreover, through digitization, innovation, expansion and standardization of processes, SAJIDA Foundation aims to further their impact on the communities.
Long before the MDGs came into play, Founder Syed Humayun Kabir founded SAJIDA Foundation with the sole aim of eradicating poverty in all its forms. Currently under SDG 1, the foundation’s fourth goal is built on the pillar of ‘No Poverty’ and through the combined efforts of all its programs, SAJIDA has been continuously working towards uplifting the poverty-stricken towards a life of health, happiness and dignity.
Microfinance and Amrao Manush – SAJIDA’s two major programs, specifically cater to those currently living under the poverty line. Loan products like Buniad provide up to USD 700 in credit, while Apon offers water credit loans giving access to safe drinking water and sanitation facilities for those in need. At the same time, the Agriculture and Livestock unit creates employment and food security for poor farmers by training them, providing micro-credit, and helping to create affiliations with market chains. Similarly, SAMRIDDHI is an integrated development program aimed to raise the local community out of poverty. This program has a unique and inclusive approach of integrating the entire community by focusing on health, education, and youth development activities along with income generation to sustainably strengthen capacity.
Out of the 160 million in the country, 4 million still lack access to safe drinking water while 85 million lack improved sanitation facilities. Through WASH, SAJIDA has been working to deliver integrated water, sanitation and hygiene facilities to under-served communities, and working to achieve their fifth goal aligned with SDG 6. WASH reaches out to school children, giving special attention to women’s needs as 1 out of 4 women skip school when menstruating. Additionally, it also serves Ready Made Garments workers, and the urban poor living on pavements and slums through installation of drinking water and sanitation facilities, use of mobile toilets, and awareness creation.
Keeping in line with SAJIDA’s values of women empowerment and equality for all, the sixth goal aligned with SDG 5, focuses on advancing gender equality. SAJIDA works diligently towards achieving gender equality, primarily in groups where violence against women is most prevalent. Even after making up for the majority of the workforce in the RMG sector, women are more often abused by their own peers and employers. Alongside this group, another group of women who are also harassed, are the ones residing on pavements and streets. Aside from gender-based violence, women are also subjected to unequal pay, discrimination, and an overall neglect. SAJIDA Foundation, a woman-led organization, focuses greatly on ensuring gender-equality alongside the issues concerning women of all ages. As thus, through the interlinked aspects of its various programs, SAJIDA caters to different segments, addresses unique issues, and works towards solving the overarching problem of inequality in all its form.
While Adhunika helps young women become financially and socially independent, Working with Women Phase II focuses on mitigating gender-based violence for women RMG workers through numerous workshops, trainings and awareness sessions on mental and physical health. PROSHOMON provides free maternal health services, and SAJIDA Hospitals offer family planning and specializes in maternal as well as child health services. Furthermore, Microfinance’s loan product Suchona offers a completely separate portfolio targeted solely towards women entrepreneurs. On the other hand, Amrao Manush specially offers women and girls night shelter, vocational training to aid inclusion in economic development, as well as day-care centres for working mothers. Under WASH, women make up almost 80 percent of the beneficiaries giving only a slight glimpse of how the social structure is positively changing, leading to women becoming more and more self-sufficient over time.
When the massive influx of refugees from Myanmar took place in 2017, SAJIDA Foundation was one of the first responders on the scene to provide health and psychological support to victims. The organization was already working towards managing natural disasters through their Disaster Management Program, however, with this new development, the foundation had to adopt new measures on the spot. Through extensive work and support, the foundation not only provided healthcare, but also catered to the psychological needs. Through various emergency response strategies, satellite clinics, a primary healthcare centre and even a recreational zone for children, the organization has been offering sustainable living opportunities for the displaced nationals.
However, with an aim to further innovate and improve, SAJIDA aims to focus on four main areas of disaster response: risk reduction, preparedness, response, and rehabilitation. Although at the current stage it contributes to SDG 11, it still believes there are areas of improvement that can lead to even better results.
In light of similar goals, SAJIDA Foundation aims to work towards climate change adaptation while aligning itself with SDG 13. In reference to 2015’s Climate Change Vulnerability Index, Bangladesh is at a high risk of climate change. Therefore, SAJIDA Foundation plans to fight against climate change by contributing to strengthening resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters. As one of the 8 strategic goals set to achieve by 2025, the foundation has already started work towards combatting the consequences of climate change by forming a specialized unit to develop Climate Change Adaptation program.
What started out as a small garage school in 1987 to help poverty-stricken children receive education, has grown from strength to strength over the last 26 years to work towards solving global issues impacting the lives locally. SAJIDA’s five core values of innovation and quality, empowering mothers and families, inclusiveness and dignity, compassion and empathy, and transparency and equality; has set itself apart by its extraordinary gesture of corporate philanthropy. It stands today as a unique example of social enterprise and corporate social responsibility working towards ensuring a life of health, happiness and dignity for the people of its country, while contributing to a global cause of peace and prosperity.