Desi Spotlight Series: Drishtipat

May 7, 2010

This posting is part of our Desi Spotlight Series.

It’s time for another in my very irregular series featuring the amazing work of South Asians in the United States working on human rights back in South Asia.  Today, I’m featuring the organization Drishtipat, made up of a group of volunteers who are active in social justice and human rights in Bangladesh.

The success of Drishtipat truly lays in the passion, skills, and diligence of its volunteers, the generosity of its donors and the guidance, commitment and the network breadth of its leaders. Drishtipat is slowly but surely leaving its mark in alleviating the human rights crisis in Bangladesh and in eventually attaining its hopeful goal of giving every person the right to dignity, compassion and opportunity, and most importantly the right to be heard.  Their motto says it all: “Be the change you want to see.”

Thanks to Taniah, Farhana, Rafiq and Asif for the responses and multimedia!  You can check their organization out at  They also have an English-language blog called Unheard Voices.

  1. Can you tell me a little bit about your organization– you mission and how long you’ve been active?

Drishtipat is a non-profit, non-partisan volunteer organization, composed globally of students and young and mature professionals, committed to safeguarding human rights in Bangladesh through action-oriented projects that provide direct assistance to those individuals whose voices still remain unheard today.

Drishtipat was initiated in 2001 to be the channel of voice to expatriate Bangladeshi professionals who felt compelled to act on ceaseless human rights violations taking place in Bangladesh. It started with two simple goals:

– Raising awareness of specific incidents of alleged human rights abuse, and
– Providing assistance to ensure appropriate actions are taken to bring justice, and prevent future such abuses.

  1. Drishtipat— interesting word– why did you choose that name for your organization?

Drishtipat, is derived from a Bengali word that translates into “to shine light on”, has and continues to illuminate numerous lives of social/environmental/political victims in Bangladesh whose voices would otherwise have remained unheard.

Using the Internet as the primary vehicle of communication, Drishtipat is able to create, report, disseminate information, and implement action plans much more efficiently and rapidly than the traditional organizations of Bangladesh. Now Drishtipat, with its strong online and offline presence, manouevers its projects thru its global volunteers at the nine chapters around the world with its outreach in the USA, UK, Canada, Australia and Bangladesh, and the growing members of 4000 plus in its mailing list .

  1.  What sorts of issues do you take on?

In coalition with its local, national and international partners, Drishtipat strives to achieve its goals by working in three core areas:
1.     Advocacy and Policy Research – mobilizing the youth to launch awareness campaigns and educational projects.
2.     Volunteering and Community Philanthropy – promoting self help and philanthropy to create positive social change within Bangladesh and its Diaspora community.
3.     Econonomic and Ecological Development – combating poverty and injustice by encouraging self sustainable opportunities through young social entrepreneurs.

The philanthropic and advocacy goals of Drishtipat give the organization a unique blend of activities in its host countries.
·         Drishtipat London has formed a coalition for Climate Change with 30 national and international non-governmental organizations.
·         In 2008, Drishtipat organized a five-city benefit concert that sold out in the United States, England, and Canada.

·         Drishtipat Washington DC has hosted several awareness-raising events in conjunction with the Bangladesh Embassy.

  1. Bangladesh has some interesting politics in that it is very contentious amongst the political parties.  How do you navigate this? Is your organization nonpartisan?

With its footprints in issues on a non-partisan platform, Drishtipat is easily recognised as one of the most well known global Bangladeshi organizations in its sector of work related to natural disasters, human rights’ violations, cultural freedom, right to civil liberties, access to justice, and poverty in Bangladesh.

  1. Climate change is a hot topic and Bangladesh is likely to suffer disproportionately.  Is there anything that Drishtipat has done– if so, please elaborate.

The Drishtipat London branch is doing a campaign around climate change called “Climate Change: Is Anybody Listening? – A project to highlight the plight of Bangladeshis and their rights in the politics of climate change and catastrophe.

Here is a video of their current campaign on child domestic workers in Bangladesh.