Be a competent and confident person. That should be the aim in everyone’s life…
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“If a woman is given a chance, she will do wonders… it is the woman who runs the family and so makes the family; from a good family a high-quality society is built and from a good society a good country is built and finally a splendid world.”
My first steps of learning to be an activist and a change maker begins with her perhaps. While interviewing her and getting inside her positive optimistic mind, I was wondering whether she has ever suffered as being a woman or even a woman activist. Hearing a lot about how “becoming an activist, we need to sacrifice our lives” from everyone, it was hard for me to know whether it is the reality and the outcome of becoming an activist. “Fortunately” she has not seen many problems in her life, and she loves to contribute to the betterment of society as she feels it as a responsibility of hers as a human. In addition, she has also become more disciplined, got to know other women’s ideas, and became aware of the time value in her life. Therefore, she considers that being an activist has privileged her a lot.
Ms. Ruseli Rahman Mahmud, a mother of two highly educated sons, is leading two organizations aimed to help the less privileged women and children through two main goals: good education, and good health. She is the president of the Inner Wheel Club of Chittagong and the president of Bangladesh Federation of University Women (BFUW) in Chittagong, Bangladesh. She is married to a doctor who is also involved in various kinds of social activities.
Bangladesh is one of the developing countries in which around 20,000 NGOs are working for the betterment of society. Among those, these two NGOs are the ones that have targeted women and children. These organizations led by Ms. Ruseli help women and children through various ways such as donation of money to the school in which around 180 children are taught from nursery school till 5th grade free of cost, and donation of money as well as some other items to hospitals where poor women and children are being treated free of cost, blood donations, conducting of seminars based on health issues such as seminars on cervical cancer, and breast cancer.
In response to the question about how she became a woman activist, she said that from her young age, she was a helping person, and it was her natural tendency to help the poor. Even some time when there was any natural calamity, she used to go to some organizations and wanted to work in any of the goals if the organization intended to help the victims of these natural disasters.
Same as some other countries, Bangladesh is also one of the male dominated countries, in which nowadays women are facing many problems such as violence against women including “eve-teasing, murder, severe assault, acid-throwing, kidnapping and hijacking”, poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, facing social taboos, and sexual abuse. For this reason, I was expecting Ms. Ruseli a women who has suffered as do many other women in their lives, but I got the answer completely opposite to what I had expected. Ms. Ruseli is a fortunate, strong, open-minded, confident, and helping women despite the fact that she has missed being completely independent in her life. Instead of only “pointing out the issues of women” she rather emphasized on how to find a solution and how to start from her own self in order to become a pioneer of change and source of inspiration for other women in her country. In order to come up with some good plans and ideas for reducing these issues in women’s life, Ms. Ruseli said that her main focus in doing social activities has been to support and strengthen women both physically and psychologically. She has been helping women and children to maintain a good health through various ways such as opening free clinics for the poor women, providing some female patients of the Ma-O-Shisho Hospital with medicine, clothing and other required items, and donating money for the treatment of cancer children to the Center for Leukomia Assistance and Support (CLASS) every year, blood grouping, and raising awareness about different health issues among poor women through conducting seminars on different health topics. She also strengthens women through giving lectures and seminars on different issues such as eve-teasing, Drug abuse and Aids with the slogan “SAY NO TO DRUGS” seminar, and seminars on autism in order to strengthen women psychologically and raise awareness among them and make them able to face problems based on the above issues.
She said “We [women] contribute the half of the population in every society, both ours and male’s responsibility is to uphold the rights of each other and maintain it especially the rights of women [as nowadays their rights are not completely maintained]; if we are left behind, then society will not develop at any point.” By pointing out the existence of the same amount of women in contrast to men among the population, she emphasized on the point of maintaining and giving equal opportunities to women as men, because women are the ones who raise the future of a country, the children. Thus, for bringing out these solutions and making the society better, she believes that NGOs are very effective in terms of improving women’s status, besides she urges transparency and visibility in the works of women who are mostly considered to be the real leaders. Since transparency and visibility of women leaders can affect, inspire, and encourage other women to approach for their goals, she thinks it is necessary to encourage women leaders and make them visible to the mass.
At last, she said that in future she wants her organizations to get into a system and get premises for her work. As well she wants to continue her work and independently act and come up with new solutions in terms of improving women’s status.