Masuda Banu Ratna has been able to channel her personal anguish toward building a better society where disabled persons such as her son can claim their due as productive, stigma-free members of society. To this end, she established the Sustainable Centre for the Disabled, which trains local people in providing physiotherapy to the disabled, enabling economically deprived children to access treatment. The SCD also has a school and orphanage for girls with disabilities, perhaps society's most vulnerable section.
Masuda Banu Ratna was born in 1954 in Kaltabazar, Dhaka. She comes from a liberal, well-off family, and early years were comfortable. Masuda married at 19, and has two sons. The birth of her second child, who has cerebral palsy and autism, was the turning point in her life: her in-laws, her relatives, and people in her social circles found it offensive that she had borne a disabled child. The arduousness that she faced made clear to her that the disabled are among the most disempowered of people. Bringing up her son, she understood the problems, the sentiments, and the potential of disabled children. Braving social opposition and economic hardship, Masuda set up the Sustainable Centre for the Disabled. Through unremitting advocacy and awareness-building, she has been able to make others see that the disabled should not be treated as a societal burden. She speaks consistently about the need to help disabled people improve their social skills. Masuda has also established a school and an orphanage for girls with disabilities. Female children from poor or landless families are unbelievably vulnerable. Masuda believes that to minimize vulnerability, education and a safe home are indispensable. The SCD has also set up an alternative healthcare and physiotherapy center, training village people, mostly poor mothers, in the use of child therapy. "My son is my university," says Masuda. "I had to innovate many things for my child. I want to replicate those things, mainly some treatment devices, among the village people who have no opportunity to see costly doctors for their disabled children." It is Masuda's ability to channel her personal anguish toward building a better society that is an inspiration.
Sustainable Centre for the Disabled (SCD)