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A woman with strong vision, a step towards a bright future

“If a woman is given a chance, she will do wonders […] it is the woman who runs the family and finally a society, so in order to maintain good families and a good society, we must uphold the rights of women […] we can only achieve women’s rights through giving women good education and good health,” said Ms. Ruseli Rahman Mahmud with her experienced, powerful voice.

Mahmud a working mother of two highly educated sons leads two organizations that aim to help the less privileged women and children through two main goals: providing 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.

“The challenges I faced as a woman fortunately are not many, but because of certain social restrictions I was never fully independent,” she said after being asked about the struggles she encountered in her life. “So, in my case the base of challenges was mainly the society.”

When Mahmud got married, instead of pursuing her long-term dream, her PhD, she stayed at home, “sacrificing” her life to nurture and educate her children, for whom now she is proud to be their mother. Like most women, in order to preserve the “peace” inside her house, she did not raise this issue or her objections; rather, she used her strengths as a woman, her patience, in order to maintain a peaceful and happy family.

Now, Mahmud’s organizations help women and children in two main ways, charitable assistance, and women’s empowerment through raising awareness. For instance, they donate money to the school, and have given money and some other items to hospitals, donated blood, and conduct seminars and lectures.

The school to which she donated money has around 180 students, who are taught from nursery till 5th grade. This school is not only a place for brightening the future of poor children, but also a place to heal sick women with free treatment. This is an extraordinary, multifunctional place, a free hospital and a free school.

Besides this, Mahmud has opened free clinics for poor women, has provided some female patients of the Ma-O-Shisho Hospital with medicine, clothing, and other required items, and has donated money for the treatment of children with cancer to the Center for Leukomia Assistance and Support (CLASS) every year.

Beyond her charitable work, Mahmud is first and foremost an optimistic change maker working with and for women. 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 assist the poor. Even at times when there was any natural calamity, she would go to some organizations and ask them to voluntarily employ her in any goal they had for helping the poor people.

As with many other countries, Bangladesh has a male-dominated society, in which nowadays women are facing many problems such as violence against women including “eve-teasing, [gender-based harassment] acid-throwing, kidnapping and hijacking” (Women in Bangladesh: Country Briefing Paper 6), poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, and sexual abuse. Feeling of an inner responsibility to help women deal with these issues, Mahmud said that her main focus in doing social activities has been to support and strengthen women and children both physically and psychologically. Her charitable work, as mentioned above, such as donations of money for different hospitals to provide poor women with free treatment, indicates her aim to support and strengthen women physically.

In case of empowering women, she educates, trains, and raises awareness by conducting seminars and lectures on different issues such as gender-based harassment, cervical cancer and breast cancer, Drug Abuse and AIDS with the slogan “SAY NO TO DRUGS,” and even autism.

As Mahmud eloquently put it: “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 that women make up half part of the world’s population, she emphasized of the importance of maintaining and giving equal opportunities to women as men, because women, in most cases, are responsible for raising 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.

In addition, she urges transparency and visibility in the works of those women who are considered to be leaders. In doing so, she helps bring the openness of some educated, well-expressed and talented women to the common women in rural areas. Since transparency and visibility of women leaders can affect, inspire, and encourage other women to achieve their goals, she thinks it is necessary to encourage women leaders and make them visible to the public.

At last, she said that her goal for the future is to keep her organization growing, and to build a strong foundation for it in order to ensure its continuity in future. As well, she wants to continue her work independently and come up with new solutions in terms of improving women’s status. She thinks working independently or through an NGO makes it easier for her to understand and address women’s common issues. Therefore, through creating solutions to these issues, she will be able to help women improve their level of literacy and health, and ultimately inspire and empower them to bring about transformations.

Clearly, Mahmud is a helping person, she is a source of inspiration, and she will be a leader of the change in the future.

Mahmud, Ruseli Rahman. Woman Activist. Mursal Hamraz. 3 December 2010.
“Women in Bangladesh: Country Briefing Paper.” January 2001. ADB, Asian Development Bank. 6 December 2010 .

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future, which is providing rigorous web 2.0 and new media training for 30 emerging women leaders. We are speaking out for social change from some of the most unheard regions of the world.


vivian's picture

good start

Yes, you got it well finally. I love your profile. It is inspiring and could be emulated by another person


''Every woman have a story at every stage of Life''

Mursal Hamraz's picture

Thanks Vivian

Of course, as she has inspired me, surely she has inspired hundreds of those with whom she worked and helped. By the way, thank you so much for your comment on the first draft, it really helped me out.

In Friendship,


Potter's picture

Thank You, Mursal

Mahmud is a great role model for girls and women in Bangladesh. You write that she "urges transparency and visibility in the works of those women who are considered to be leaders. In doing so, she helps bring the openness of some educated, well-expressed and talented women to the common women." What a perfect definition of a role model! Thankf for acknowleging her work and wisdom!

Mursal Hamraz's picture

Dear Potter,

Thanks for taking time to read this profile. It in deed is not an assignment, rather it is a great source of inspirations and as you said a source of getting to know what a role model is actually. Her perfect, postivie thoughts and visions and the things she had done, all inspired me alot.



Potter's picture

so pleased to hear your voice

Keep writing! (Keep challenging, keep questioning, keep admiring, keep celebrating the outspoken!) The VOF joruney has just begun.

jadefrank's picture

Empowerment begins within

Dear Mursal,

What a privilege it is to read your first assignment! Your profile of Ms. Ruseli Rahman Mahmud is so engaging and I enjoyed learning about this courageous woman's life path and work to empower women throughout Chittagong. Thank you for bringing her life to an international stage, so that we can praise her life's work, recognize her leadership and learn from her compassion and determination.

What was it like interviewing such an inspirational woman in your community?


Mursal Hamraz's picture

Dear Jade,

I am really happy for having done this assignment. I also want to thank the PulseWire team and the VOF team for giving me this opportunity. I enjoyed and learned a lot. I want to thank my dearest Editorial Midwife and Mentor, and my fellows in the VOF correspondents for helping me out through their useful comments. About Ms. Ruseli, she has inspired me for the way she thinks and the way she has chosen to help women. After interviewing her, I have come up with an idea, that I will try my best to study in my favorite field, Civil engineering, and after that by using my career, I will open my NGO and work with Afghan less privileged women the way she works with Bangladesh women. I think empowering women both physically and psychologically is a great work we should ever do to find a solution to the global women's issues. I think, before making them realize about their rights, it is important to keep them healthy, make them educated (as this is the only way to empower them and give them courage to raise their voices), and raise awareness about different issues among them. From my point of view, these should be the priority to each goal regarding women’s empowerment.

Honestly, I enjoyed the interview. Learning about her visions, optimism, and the courage she has in her pure, soft heart, made me able to easily enter her insight thoughts and get to know the exact meaning of life through her. The fact that she, fortunately, has not suffered much, but she still wants to help the human race, represents a lesson that we human beings are always connected whether we face any problem or not, still we are there to help others or to get help from others. In fact, it is a general truth. Linking it to her ideas, she has also become a visible role model for me, so I feel really honored and lucky for having a chance to talk to her, learn about her precious thoughts, and get courage through her perfect activities. As I have become inspired through her, definitely if we continue making women leaders visible in future, thousands of other women will also be inspired and encouraged to come forth and approach for their goals.



Farona's picture

Mursal, thank you for

Mursal, thank you for bringing Ruseli story on pulsewire !
I get a sense of your admiration for her from your piece - isn't it wonderful to interview someone you truly admire, someone you truly inspire !

"In addition, she urges transparency and visibility in the works of those women who are considered to be leaders."

this is something really important she's aiming to achieve. There are lot of NGO's working in BD and not all of them are transparent or "real NGO" - a lot of fake org work in the name of NGO

You did a wonderful job in this piece


Ruun Abdi's picture

Dearest Mursal, Ms. Ruseli is

Dearest Mursal,

Ms. Ruseli is one of a kind woman. What a wonderful and inspiring woman she is. i loved where she said "If a woman is given a chance, she will do wonders … it is the woman who runs the family and finally a society, so in order to maintain good families and a good society, we must uphold the rights of women …"

this reminded me of arabic saying which was "الأم مدرسة إذا أعدت أعدت شعبا ظيبالأعراق" which means "Mothers are like schools if she nurtures well she fosters a great society" sorry i am not that good in direct translation but hope it almost carries the same meaning overall...

I really enjoyed reading your piece and thanks for profiling her, I am so happy to read wonderful inspiring women across the globe through the eyes of my fellows VOF.

Peace and love,

Judy K's picture

A vision for womens empowerment

Mursal - The woman you wrote about is inspiring. Its great that she is a leader who believes in having her organization operate in ways that are empowering to women. I enjoyed reading about her commitment to addressing important aspects of empowerment in her own community. Unfortunately, not all NGO's operate that way. I agree with comments made by Farona in an earlier post - we have to make sure that NGO's as well as governments are transparent and work toward a shared vision of equality for women.

A great beginning!!!. I look forward to hearing more.

Judy K.

Judy Kugelmass

Dear Mursal,
I enjoyed reading your profile of Ms. Ruseli Rahman Mahmud. I love the beginning - "If a woman is given a chance, she will do wonders" - as well as your description of her as "an optimistic change maker working with and for women." Although she gave up her dream of becoming a PhD, she found a way to use her intelligence and skills to both raise two fine children and work for the betterment of her community." Thank you for introducing her to me.
Best wishes for the New Year.

mrbeckbeck's picture

What a woman!

Hello Mursal,

Congratulations on your job well done here! Ruseli sounds like a very inspiring change-maker, having achieved so much for women and children in Bangladesh. Your presentation of her life here makes me feel connected to her work, I think you do a great job of making that connection personal.

Through psychological and physical nurturing, I'm sure that the women she helps will achieve great things. I wish you the best of luck on your new ideas too, to bring this type of work to Afghan women.

Keep up the great work! Happy New Year!

Scott Beck
World Pulse Online Community Volunteer

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