Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim
H.E. Dr. Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera , President of Malwai,
H.E. Mr. Sanjay Verma, Vice-Minister, Ministry of External Affairs, India,
H.E. Michal Mlynár , Permanent Representative, Slovak Republic to the UN,
Mr. Guy Ryder, Director-General, ILO,
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Assalamu Alaikum and a very good morning.
It is my pleasure to join this side-event on Sustainable and Affordable housing. This is an issue I hold very close to my heart. I strongly believe that a safe and decent shelter is the basic right of every individual.
Being a densely populated country of 165 million people, Bangladesh could successfully manage the issue of homelessness. We are providing the landless-homeless people houses with land free of cost. I am here today to share my experiences of success in building sustainable houses for the underprivileged people across the country.
After our independence, Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, took initiatives to rehabilitate the landless, homeless and rootless people making it a development priority in 1972.
Counting on the vision of the Father of the Nation, in 1997, we launched a project named ‘Ashrayan’ that means housing for landless-homeless people. For last two decades, my government put the most sincere effort to ensure free of cost housing for all.
Our coverage area is not only the cities, rather it includes every village, town, district, island and hilly region of the country. On the occasion of birth centenary of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, this effort is rejuvenated with bigger standings.
Just in last two years, we have built 2 hundred thousand homes which accommodates near about one million people. During my premiership of eighteen years we have accommodated 3.5 million homeless people in more than half a million of houses. Construction of another 40 thousand houses is presently going on.
Under this project, each family is getting ownership of a brick-built house of 400 sq. ft area with two-bedrooms, one long verandah, a kitchen and a sanitary latrine. We are providing free electricity connections, safe drinking water to every household. We are giving the house and the land with a sufficient homestead area free of cost, which is unique in the history of the world.
The beneficiaries of these houses are landless-homeless, beggars, day labourers, destitute women, widows, persons with disabilities, elderly-people, the victims of domestic violence, ethnic minority, third gender people, leprosy patients, sweepers, and Harijan community so called (Lower caste). We are addressing the climate-victim families too. We have already accommodated 5 thousand climate-refugee families in 139 multi-storey buildings in Cox’s Bazar.
Previously it was a common scenario in Bangladesh that homeless people used to flock to the cities in search of employment and dwelling. But, since the introduction of Ashrayan project, this trend is almost stopped. These people are now self-employed in their own localities.
We are following a model of `Inclusive Development.’ The model ensures a holistic approach to make a rehabilitated person self-reliant and self-dignified with economic and social empowerment. The project ensures an equal share of ownership of the land and house for both husband and wife.
House is the most basic need of every citizen of the country and, it creates opportunities for fulfilling other needs. In Bangladesh, we have experienced that a home is not just a place to live. Housing security accelerates person’s economic emancipation and motivates them to live with dignity. Along with the provision of land and houses, we have made successful arrangements in sending children to primary schools. Besides, to deliver primary healthcare, connections have been made with the nearby community clinics. The children and women receives thirty types of medicines free of cost. Homestead gardening, rearing poultry and fish production, including micro and small entrepreneurship activities led by women are in place. These interventions have made the initiative sustainable and eco-friendly.
Homelessness is indeed a curse. It affects people in both developing and developed countries. Our experience shows, it is within our capacity to do something about removing this curse. All our friends and stakeholders gathered here can forge a strong partnership to make that happen.
The New Urban Agenda provides us a useful blueprint for moving forward. We must support UN-HABITAT’s work in supporting countries to implement the Agenda. Bangladesh will remain engaged with the Group of Friends here in New York to bring these issues to the forefront.
Let us keep working for a world where homelessness becomes a matter of the past.
I thank you all.