Call for innovative ideas to improve women’s living in CHT

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Dhaka, 16 August 2022: An idea competition was launched to find new and innovative solutions to eco-friendly sanitary pads and improved cook stoves for rural women of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT). Strengthening Inclusive Development in Chittagong Hill Tracts (SID-CHT), a project of the Ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs and UNDP, organized the competition launch with technical assistance from a2i’s iLab and financial support from Global Affairs Canada.

Mosammat Hamida Begum, Secretary, Ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs, graced the launching occasion as the chief guest was held at Dhaka’s Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Novo Theatre on Tuesday. a2i’s Project Director (Joint Secretary) Dr. Dewan Muhammad Humayun Kabir and Assistant Resident Representative of UNDP Bangladesh, Prasenjit Chakma, were present as the special guests. The event was chaired by NPD of SID-CHT and Additional Secretary (Development) Satyendra Kumar Sarkar.

According to the government’s Baseline Survey on National Hygiene in 2018, only 13% of women in Bangladesh follow proper menstrual hygiene, but women and girls in Chittagong Hill Tracts are still lagging behind due to a lack of awareness. Besides, due to social and cultural norms, women of the Chittagong Hill Tracts cannot take proper decisions on their sexual and reproductive health. They still believe in superstitions, misconceptions, and myths about menstrual hygiene, and society considers menstruation dishonorable.

On the other hand, poverty and gender disparity in the Hill Tracts tend to leave women engaged in household work and collecting firewood and other biomass. Due to the improper use of wood and charcoal in cooking, many women face many health-related problems. Besides, they also face security and sexual violence risks while collecting firewood from the forest. This idea competition has been launched to find new and innovative solutions to eco-friendly sanitary pads and improved cook stoves for rural women living in three districts of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT).

Interested inventors are urged to submit their ideas by 8 September 8 September 2022 to participate in the competition. After scrutinizing innovative ideas submitted by citizens, an esteemed jury board will award two sustainable and cost-effective ideas from innovative ideas by citizens. Seed funding for developing functional prototypes and piloting for two selected ideas will be around BDT 25 lakh (approx.) each. The prize will be awarded at the end of the contest to the application that, in the opinion of the jury, best demonstrates a solution that best addresses the cumulative criteria.

The chief guest of the launching ceremony and Secretary of the Ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs, Mosammat Hamida Begum, said, we have noticed that the reproductive capacity of women has increased a lot due to technological advancement and innovation. It will be possible to fully utilize the potential of innovation if we can make local innovation accessible to all. As a result, innovation practice will also increase among local innovators and communities in remote areas.

a2i’s Project Director (Joint Secretary) Dr. Dewan Muhammad Humayun Kabir said, we are facilitating to make government services people-friendly. We need to work on technology-based local innovation in using energy. Here at a2i, we are always ready to provide technological support in the development of the living standards of the Chittagong region.

Additional Secretary (Development) Satyendra Kumar Sarkar said, we are ready to provide support from our project or the ministry not only for the challenges that were inaugurated today but also for any other problems as well. We have already taken several initiatives jointly with a2i to bring technological education and innovation to the Hill area.

At the event, Jhuma Dewan, Chief, Gender & Community Cohesion, SID-CHT, UNDP gave the introduction with the challenge narration; Supradip Chakma, NPM, SID-CHT, UNDP gave opening remarks; Faruq Ahmed Jewel, Head of Technology at a2i, gave a presentation on the CHT Challenge Competition followed by Q&A; while high officials from the Ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs (MoCHTA), a2i, UNDP, Academicians of various educational institutions & representatives of various relevant organisations and journalists from media attended the event among others.