A mob of children was annoying and throwing pieces of bricks to an mentally disabled woman and shouting to her ‘mad’ and the woman was charging repeatedly to the children and howling slang words. The aged woman was bleeding from her leg but the children were continuing their mischief with great interest. After observing this scene teenager Arzoo prevented the children and brought the woman to his house. Though some family members were irritated by this step of him his mother supported him and made arrangement of her bath, food and after treating stay at their house. This is young Arzoo who has been devoted to the distressed people from his early age and his mother noticed this virtue of him first and patronised this type of work of him.
Arzoo was born in Enayetpur village near Jashore town in 1953 and though he was born in village he spent his childhood in different thana towns of Jashore due to his father’s job in government office. He got education from different education institutions of Jashore. He was also cultural minded and involved with story and poem writing, wall magazine publication, reciting, acting in stage shows and along with those involved with the liberation war in 1971 with his own interest. He was caught at the hand of Pakistani collaborators ‘Razakar’ in Monirampur of Jashore and had suffered unbearable torture from them. He was later handed over to the Pakistani army and the army also tortured him and sent him to Jashore jail. He remained in the jail will 6th December when Jashore was freed by the freedom fighters.
In a newly independent country, Arzoo believed that there would be no deprivation and country people Won’t have any problem. But on the contrary he experienced that the rural people are still suffering from the same problems and are living in poverty. They were struggling to manage 3 times meals and selling their last assets. Many were becoming penniless within very short time. He used to visit his father and brother-in-law in Jashore Collectorate office and noticed that there were a queue of people in front of a tea stall and the shop keeper poured tea to the customers’ pot very carefully keeping safe distance so that he or his pot don’t get touched by the customers. The customers were low curst people and called untouchable; sweeper, cobbler, barber. This incident made young Arzoo burned with rage and he thought is this expected in independent Bangladesh, is this country truly belongs to all section of society. He went to the sweeper colony to get practical experience of their lives and with his great shock observed that they were earning handsome money but spend all to drinking. The children and women were living in unhygienic condition. He was embarrassed to think himself as educated and civilised. He had an urge to do something in limited scope. He took initiative to make them aware and started adult literacy with some of his likeminded friends in 1975 and thus today’s Jagorani Chakra started its journey towards development. They started adult literacy centre at Jashore by their small savings and the then Deputy Commissioner of Jashore Mr. Abdul Awal along with some other government officials were invited to the centre. The Deputy Commissioner commented after visiting the centre that we all have constitutional right to have same privilege from the country and treat equally. It was young Arzoo who led a team of young and energetic people and they dared to break the social stigma and made the sweepers aware about their rights, formed their own self-help groups and encouraged them to send the children to school. The organizations are still running and they are no longer treated as untouchables in the community. At present there are more than 200 group members and group fund is above Tk. 2,000,000. The success of sweeper colony gave him confidence in community development approach and it was his thorough guidance which helped the project staff to implement six community development projects successfully in Jashore, Jhenaidah, Kushtia, Chuadanga, Natore and Rangpur. The Community Based Organizations (CBOs) of Jashore slums have formed a central women’s federation called Joyoti Society and is now operating their activities as a separate entity after getting registration from Joint Stock Company. The organizations were formed with the slum women who were assisted to develop the habit of small savings and operate their own income activities. At present there are 54 CBOs with 866 groups and 13309 members under this federation. Another women’s federation has been formed with poor and ultra poor village women at Darshana, Chuadanga and they also get registration from Joint Stock Company under the name of AAMRA JOIE. At present there are 33 CBOs with 268 groups and 7166 members. The federation formed in Natore is representing 42 groups and 1275 ultra poor members. They have taken registration from cooperative department under the name of AAMRA SHADHIN women cooperative group ltd. Once these women had no assets and capital but the project helped them a great deal to generate their own capital and runs income generation activities of their own. Some of the members have also elected in the local government elections (Union Parishad, the lowest tier in local government) and are working for the rights of poor women.
In the mean time Arzoo got a Bank job in Government run Sonali Bank at Narail district and after finishing bank work in the evening he used to operate adult literacy centre. One day he was late to finish his bank work and that day he couldn’t operate the centre after returning to Jashore. He thought he couldn’t work for the betterment of poor community properly if he continued his job. He left his secured job life on the very next day and started his unknown journey in the development arena. The functional adult literacy centre though running but didn’t have expected progress at the starting. One day he went to the Jashore Church and met with Father Ludicio Chechi. He visited the learning centres and commented that the way of teaching matched with child teaching but Jagorani Chakra need to follow different approach and advised Mr. Arzoo to study the book of Paulo Freire and after studying the book of Freire and receiving training on it they developed their own curriculum, teachers’ guide and books for adult learners. The then Jagorani Chakra now known as Jagorani Chakra Foundation (JCF) has been able to graduate more than 1,000,000 learners of adult literacy and non-formal primary education so far.
In 1981 he had the opportunity to be involved with a government survey in Jashore brothels and another humiliation of human being was revealed to him there. At the time of visiting the brothel he saw newborn with a sex worker and he couldn’t resist himself to ask her who would be the father of that baby. The sex worker smiled and answered happily while kissing the newborn that these drawbacks couldn’t deprive her of the heavenly love between mother and child. There are scanty and smelly environment inside the brothel but nothing could resist the sex workers to become mother and enjoy the universal pleasure of motherhood; this is a dilemma which haunted Arzoo and forced him to think about these people. He discovered that the society hates sex worker but don’t hesitate to impregnate them and bother to think about the children resultant of this unhealthy relationship. Even they are not free from humiliation after death as society didn’t allow to burry or burn their bodies in recognised graveyards. They were buried secretly or floated on river. In 2002, he put a bold step when JCF decided to work for the commercial sex workers and their children. At present JCF is operating a shelter home for the children of commercial sex worker in Jashore. Some achievements till now are: more than 100 children are successfully integrated to mainstream, sex workers’ children are having the privilege to mix with normal society children, sex workers’ dead bodies are getting equal treatment etc.
Mr. Arzoo is now leading a team of about six thousand staff who are providing various services to approx. 12 lac people covering 39 districts in Baangladesh.
Membership in Other Organisations
- SCI-Bangladesh (Vice-president, from 1991 to 1995)
- Jessore Night School (Founder Member)
- Charupith Art School (Founder Member)
- Voluntary Health Services Society (VHSS) ( Executive Committee Member, from 1986 to 1990)
- Federation of NGOs in Bangladesh (FNB) (Executive Committee Member of the First Adhoc Committee & present committee)
- Bangladesh Silk Foundation (Executive Committee Member, since 2002).
- Azizur Rahman Patwary Award in 1991 for the contribution in different education sectors.
- Primary and Mass Education Ministry Award in 1994 for developing post adult literacy materials by publishing the book “AMRA O AMADER PORIBESH”.
- Seminar Parishad Jessore gave him Talent Honor Award in 1999.
- Mother Teresa Gold Medal in 2009 by Mother Reresa Research council for special contribution in Microfinance.
- Begum Rokeya Honor Award in 2009 by Bonolota Sen Foundation for special contribution in Social Welfare and spreading Education.
- Nritto Bitan Jessore gave him Talent Honor Award in 2009 for special contribution in Developing Education.
- The Mother Teresa Council, India awarded JCF Founder in 2016 for his contribution in Social work in BD
Publication (all in Bengali)
- Jagoroner Pothey-adult literacy book
- Amrao Manush-adult literacy teacher handbook
- Boka Boley Gorib- advance adult literacy book
- Juger Dak-adult literacy teacher’s guidebook
- Shobdo Gyan- adult literacy teacher handbook
- Amader Dabi Mante Hobe- adult literacy book
- Baul Hridoy-poetry
Some Achievement of JCF under the leadership of Azadul Kabir Arzoo
- About 10 lac disadvantaged children graduated through 22,593 learning centres.
- 15 quality primary schools are set up at char areas and slum areas for the education of disadvantaged children.
- 43,630 ultra poor women become self reliant after getting training and financial support from the organisation and they have formed their own organisation which are now independent..
- About 59 lac entrepreneurs are developed in 35 districts through microfinance programme (agriculture, agro processing, small businesses and other service oriented trades) and another 56 lac people have the scope of work though these.
- 200 elderly people are getting allowance every month (Tk. 600).
- JCF is implementing free operation support project from its CSR fund and till now 4,198 poor women who were suffering from different problems; prolapsed, uterus tumor, uterus infection, hernia-piles-fistula-anal fisher, breast tumour, eye operation, cataract operation and grafting are treated successfully.
- 195 children born in brothels and floating sex workers are rehabilitated from JCF operated shelter home and at present there are 50 residential children in the home.
- JCF introduced triathlon in 2017 at Jashore as a part of cultural and sports intervention and the national Triathlon Federation recognised this by arranging national competition at Jashore in 2018.