Life of Jannatul Ferdous had never been easy. It was full of difficulties and numerous challenges. It seemed life was unnecessarily punishing her. Jannatul, mother of two children, has hearing impairment. Despite all these, she managed well in her married life. She along with her two loving children was protected by her compassionate husband, her only provider and protector. But, life was not done being unfair to her. In 2016, she lost her husband and things soon fell apart, and soon with the recent COVID-19 raised questions about her survival, with two children. She was stuck hard with children’s mounting school fees, food supply, medication, utility bills and others. Yet fortune turned to her one day, when Shawpno offered a job. With proper Shawpno- PDFA-Vocational Training, soon she proved herself as worthy one.
She has been working as a cashier in Shwapno outlet for the past six months. While sharing her story, Jannatul mentioned, “This is a turning point, a new start, as my life changed from then on. I’m empowered, now, I can earn to support my family and my children’s education. I am forever grateful to Shawpno for creating employment opportunity for people with difficulties and taking me onboard.” Finding a job for differently-abled people, turns out to be a next to impossible challenge in Bangladesh.
Taking that into cognizance, Shwapno, the largest retail chain shop in Bangladesh, took a revolutionary step to employ people with special needs. This was the brain child of their visionary CEO Mr. Sabbir Hasan Nasir, as he was always the forerunner in bringing a change in the society. This is the first time in the history of private organizations, that any company has professionally hired people with special needs as their employees so that they can work with full dignity. By fixing a quota of 10% of its entire workforce for workers with special needs, it has set an examples for others to follow. Shwapno has given them the opportunity to live a dignified life and be Independant.
The CEO and Executive Director of Shawpno, believes, rather than recruiting them to sympathy, the private sector should see the benefits of including them in the workforce via exclusive training. Meanwhile, Shawpno has taken several commendable mainstream initiatives which have been widely appreciated by the society. It also plans to hire 100 trained -people with special needs, by creating nondiscriminatory and friendly work environment for them.
Mr. Sabbir Hasan Nasir furthered, “I object to use to the word ‘disabled’. I believe these gifted people are differently-abled. To date, we have recruited 17 of them. This has been a tremendous success, as their performance is much better than that of the average employee.” People who have autism can often be highly efficient in areas such as technology, math and science. Positions in these fields can be challenging to fill due to a lack of qualified candidates. This has created the opportunity for companies to begin searching for candidates outside of their usual, predictable pool of talent. Shwapno is whole heartedly trying to create a proper working environment for them. With total 139 stores and 3853 staff across Bangladesh, Shwapno is one such company, which has come to see the business case for hiring such individuals. Mr. Nasirul Kabir, Senior Regional Sales Manager said, “Individuals with autism and neurodevelopmental disabilities are breaking stereotypes and showing the world what they are capable of across many arenas. Shawpno is realizing that there are many job positions that make use of the unique strengths that people with autism possess. In fact, many times individuals on the spectrum are a better fit for certain positions than those not on the spectrum.
According to a statistics by National Strategic Plan for Neurodevelopment Disorder states, 1.5 crore or 9.07% of the total population has some form of disability. Of this a major portion- 28 lakhs is suffering from autism. As the number of people diagnosed with autism increases, it is becoming vital for companies to understand how hiring these individuals can deliver unparalleled value. This leads to a very large population of adults on the spectrum who wants to enter the workforce, but often struggle finding opportunities. Mr. Sabbir Hasan Nasir says, “Shawpno is not a super store it is actually a platform for transforming goodness. Wherever there is scope, Shawpno willingly steps in to help people who are in need and leave a positive impact in community, impacting lives and livelihoods.” “In terms of social responsibility, Shawpno has first come forward by creating a platform through effective collaboration with long term plans. Shwapno always tries to stand by the side of those who are most vulnerable and unnoticed in the community and solve their problems with utmost priority. It will continue to do so in the days to come.”