Connecting rural leaders in Bangladesh

March 12, 2014

By Kulsoom Rizvi

Last year’s Social Good Summit showed us how technology and new media is increasingly allowing people to connect and collaborate in their real-time, local communities. The Social Good Summit in September brought together youth leaders from both Bangladesh and Armenia via Skype for a two-hour cross-border virtual hangout.

The youth problem solvers exchanged tools and ideas, shared personal experiences on using social media to create sustainable development, and together laid the groundwork for future global connectivity. 

To celebrate International Women’s Day, Counterpart International in Bangladesh decided to organize another virtual hangout, this time, between 45 women leaders from two villages over 100 miles away from each other via Skype.  

“We observed how the Social Good Summit had such a great impact for the youth leaders, we wanted to launch something similar in honor of International Women’s Day to not only bring awareness about this day, but build capacity on information and communication technology to meet the government’s 2012 vision of a digital Bangladesh,” Rakib Ahsan, Deputy Chief of Party said. 

Youth and community leaders from the Mymnesingh and Rajshahi villages came together virtually in a small room to learn and share about each other’s community initiatives and projects.  Here are some highlights of the live video Skype conversation between the women leaders:

  • Women leaders shared various income-generating initiatives they started in their communities. Lack of sufficient income prevents women to participate in the decision-making process. They talked about how the income-generating activities they launched gave them a sense of “economic empowerment” and “progress.”
  • In the group discussions, the leaders identified other topics to share such as early marriages, hygiene education and their role in the Union Parishad (UP), the rural local governance in Bangladesh.
  • Fatima Rupa is a UP member responsible for community development work and oversees budget allocations in health, women’s rights, education, elderly allowance, vulnerable groups’ development and infrastructure activities. Fatima shared her project in getting women sewing machines in her community to boost more jobs.
  • 25-year-old Rokshana Khatun from the Hujuripara village in Bangladesh found it difficult to get a job outside her community. Rokshana and a group of women pitched in $26 from their own pockets to start a small block batik (printing design) income-generating activity in their community, a very promising and popular trade in the country.
  • Rokshana said she was inspired to use local resources to start a small project after receiving LDP training. Rokshana and her group members take orders from their neighbors on printing designs for clothing, bedding and table cloths. 
  • “I never imagined I could stay in Mymensingh and speak to my sisters at Rajshahi,” community leaders Rokeya Begum.
  • “I had a dream of opening up a computer training center at my union for community use, but I didn’t have enough funds for it. But coming to this event and hearing about the success of others, I don’t think funding will stop me from reaching my dream,” youth leader Beauty Akter. 
  • Leaders exchanged mobile numbers to continue the conversation on community issues, wanting to share their progress with their neighbors and discuss other ways to use technology to for future activities. 

Leadership training continues to grow strong. Further opportunities will include vocational training, job creating, internship development and social entrepreneurship projects.     

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