Shahida Yeasmin was an anomaly in Char Borobila. Instead of dropping out of school between the ages of seven and 10 like most other girls, she managed to stay in school, pass her exams, and actually graduate from secondary school! While her peers were working at home or being forced into early child marriage, Shahida was excelling in a predominately boys’ world.
Before FH began working with the communities of Char Borobila, most parents weren’t interested in sending their girls to school. Believing that the destiny of every girl is to become a housewife, formal education seemed impractical. It made more sense for parents to keep their girls home and properly prepare them for their futures as a wives and mothers. A belief that women naturally have less potential than men excluded wives from the decision-making process for family matters. On the occasion a woman did assert her opinion, it was not uncommon for her husband or other family members to become physically abusive in order to put her in her place.
In spite of Shahida’s success in school, this future was the only one available to her. So, she married and began having children.
But being a housewife and a mother was not easy. Keeping half the adult demographic – the women – at home put an extreme financial strain on the already economically oppressed families of Char Borobila. Shahida’s husband, for example, could only earn roughly 1000 to 1200 taka ($15.40 to $18.50 CAD) per month, meaning the family was scraping by on less than $1 per day. It was extremely difficult to meet their their basic needs. And yet, Shahida’s husband still did not permit her to work outside the home. His worldview simply wouldn’t allow it.
It didn’t take long for FH to realize that Char Borobila desperately needed a new perspective that would unleash the social and economic potential of their women.
FH offered leadership workshops and a helped form and train a Community Development Committee. As they came together, the local leaders of Char Borobila began to identify challenges in their communities and formulate concrete plans to overcome them. Key to their development plan was the formation of a variety of over 50 leadership training groups.
|Shahida now has a place or respect and leadership in her own family, thanks to her hard work and the support of her husband.|
In 2012 Shahida joined the ‘Setu (bridge) Women’s Development Group and it totally transformed her family’s life. Setu group members participated in various trainings offered by FH. Three members received Leadership Development Training and now work in other development groups. Two leaders serve as their groups’ accountants after receiving cashier training. Seven members received midwife training and are serving in the area. Three couples improved their relationships with each other and their children after braving FH Couples’ Training. They have all risen as community leaders.
Shahida became Setu’s secretary. The following year, she was recruited to be a preschool teacher in one of the brand-new FH-initiated preschools. In addition to promoting education, she helps lead a Cascade health group teaching her peers life-saving health, hygiene, and sanitation practices. She also visits the sick to offer advice or take them to the doctor. Now when people in the area have a problem, they contact Shahida. She has become a true local leader. Amazingly, her husband is fully supportive and helps her with caring for the sick. Even her mother-in-law sings her praises: “Shahida is a very intelligent girl; she is taking care of my family nicely.”
|Shahida is now leading and inspiring her community to improve health and hygiene practices.|
By bringing together local leaders and offering a new way to tackle their challenges – including a new perspective on the role of women – FH is helping the people of Char Borobila lift themselves out of poverty. The are creating an environment where women have dignity and can use their God-given potential for the benefit of their families and communities. As local worldviews change and women like Shahida are allowed to flourish, health is improving, education is being prioritized, and incomes are on the rise.
“FH has made my family happy,” Shahida shares. “People in the area and families now respect me a lot. My future dream is to serve people selflessly throughout my life.”