From grassroots to glass ceilings, Afrose Akter is shattering stereotypes of female leadership in Bangladesh. Married as a teenager, Afrose is now a 37-year-old mom with a career as FH’s Area Team Leader for Char Borobila. Her role has huge responsibilities – leading the local FH development team, reporting to FH donor countries, liaising with local leaders, and forming personal relationships with community members. Afrose is one of thousands of unsung heroes of transformation – the FH staff who live, work, and serve with impoverished communities as they move from stuck to thriving.
Q: Tell us a little about yourself. What do you like to do in your personal time?
A: I read books, mostly novels. Sometimes, I listen to music and sing. I give quality time to my family, talk to them and help them in many household activities. I am a mom to two daughters – Sumaiya [a college student] and Rubaiya [in Grade 8]. Besides that, I love to visit different places. My friends say I am a hard worker, very loyal, and I value friendship. I like to mingle with people in the village. I am a very adaptive person, always ready to move forward and address challenges. I believe in integrity of heart, stewardship, and servant leadership.
Q: What led you into community development work?
A: My study in social work. When I saw the poor, my heart cried out for them. My inner spirit told me to do something for them to release them from their bondage of poverty.
|Afrose regularly checks in with Cascade groups, ensuring women are equipped with the necessary
materials to learn and share important health messages.
Q: Did you grow up in a poor community yourself?
A: I was born in a small village, but it’s beautiful. You can find green everywhere and feel the touch of real Bengali tradition. There is a crooked mud road with trees at both sides. There are many ponds and pools full of fish and crabs. The fields are full at harvest time. There is a government primary and secondary school. My grandfather was actually very rich and had a good influence in our village. He was the head man. People came to him for advice, to resolve any problem, and for guidance. He helped the poor in our village and provided them some work for their livelihood. My father was very simple, a farmer. My mother worked in government and my brother is a schoolteacher in our village.
But I fell prey to child marriage.
Q: That must have been difficult. How young were you? Did it disrupt your education?
A: I got married when I was in 6th standard [late elementary level]. Usually girls cannot continue their studies after marriage in our context. But I was fortunate. My cousins inspired and encouraged me to pursue higher education and a career. When I completed my Bachelor of Arts (BA), I got a job as a Project Officer at an NGO. Then I completed my Master of Arts (MA) in Social Studies in 2008.
Q: How long you have worked with FH?
I started my journey as a Community Animator [FH staff who work within the community teaching and facilitating] in 2003 and became an Area Team Leader in 2012.
Q: What does a typical day at FH look like for you?
A: I start my day with prayer and devotions with my colleagues at 8:30 AM. Then have team feedback on previous work and set targets for the new day. I check my emails, answer them, and make a plan for the team. After that I go out to visit community groups or children’s clubs. Sometimes I visit the children’s houses and also their schools to check on their progress. After lunch I work on reporting. In the afternoon we have a team debrief to discuss challenges and find solutions to meet our targets. At five o’clock we leave our office.
|Afrose coaches a small business owner on accounting skills.
Q: What do you love most about your role?
A: My favorite thing about my job is working and interacting with people who are left behind. I choose this job for mainly two reasons: to make the community or village free from poverty and hunger, and to inspire the community people to fulfill their God-given potential. I love working closely with my team and guiding them to address challenges or issues while working with the community.
Q: What is one of the most memorable experiences you’ve had in the community?
A: When we started work in Char Borobila in 2012 it was really challenging for me to make the community people and leaders understand the vision, values, and purpose of FH. They had some bad impressions about NGOs. We started a dialogue that involved discussing past pain and gave them opportunities to share their hopes for their community. We listened to their past grievances. Our willingness to listen built a powerful bond with them later on. We invited them to our program and went to them to ask their guidance and prayer for our work. Through this relationship building process the people now have a sense of togetherness that is helping us work in this community. Now, they love and respect all FH staff.