Who We Are
UTSHO Bangladesh is a grassroots, community based organization enabling access to basic human rights for marginalized women and children. Utsho’s vision is to ensure all human beings have the right to survive, access to free healthcare and education and are free from all oppression. The guiding principles of Utsho have been the addressing of human rights issues, providing sustainable education to marginalized children within a caring environment, and maintaining a transparent management structure.
Through this program, single working mothers, such as sex workers, garment factory workers, domestic helpers, can be ensured that their children have appropriate full time care. However, it provides much more than caring. Utsho offers formal and informal education. It teaches children to respect women, most importantly to respect themselves and to overcome their suffering of identity crisis and traumatic backgrounds. There are also accommodation facilities available for these economically disadvantaged children in Bangladesh.
What We Do
Since eighteen years, UTSHO has been operating three schools, two of which are residential and one non-residential, all under the name ‘Utsho Bidyaniketon’. We have 138 students from the three schools combined. It is a sanctuary where the basic needs of the children are taken care of and where they can concentrate on their studies without being subjected to external stresses.
We believe empowerment comes through education. The school’s aim is to create a healthy, happy and safe educational environment for underprivileged and marginalized children. In addition to the three schools, UTSHO Bangladesh also runs two cafeterias and a tailoring shop, which not only creates jobs, space and shelter for marginalized and vulnerable women and children, but also helps to generate fund for UTSHO.
The idea of helping single mothers with their children in the urban slums and brothels of Bangladesh has come from the founder of Uthso Bangladesh, Mahbooba Mahmood Leena. Leena’s idea and dreams are far reaching, diverse, innovative and progressive. However, her acquaintances and friends were often critical of the practical implication and implementation of her ideas and dreams. But she pursued her dream and started working with slum dwellers in the mid 1980s and with the sex workers in later part of this decade. The mothers of the slums and brothels often requested Leena to help their children with education and shelter so that they can have better lives. These requests often moved Leena and inspired her to assist these mothers. She realized the problem of these single mothers who bear the double burden of working and at the same time raising children that make their lives so difficult.
In 1993 Utsho Bangladesh started its journey by establishing a residential school with 3 children in a small house in Rayer Bazar, Dhaka with the financial support from Leena’s Family. Leena encourages and ensures women’s self-reliance by providing basic education within residential facilities for their children. At the same time Leena encourages the affluent members of the society to support at least one child financially. She tried to involve these members not only to sponsor the children but encouraged them to spend time with these children and get firsthand experience of their lives.
Utsho is also grateful to all the support it has received from the volunteers, advisors, sponsors and well-wishers. Utsho has come this far only with the help and support of these people who have been with Utsho through many difficult years. Utsho support groups are growing with time and with greater participation from the community.