The Daily Star understands that while women are contributing to the growth and change of the nation, their contributions are often left unrecognised. It is especially true for women from the underprivileged section of the society, who are yet to be celebrated despite their tremendous contributions.
They are the unsung women of our country who build our nation, as they go against all odds and fight a battle to bring change in the society, and these women deserve their names to be in the golden pages of history.
The Daily Star, in association with IPDC Finance Limited, has taken a noble initiative to honour these unsung heroes of the nation and provide them with a platform where they will be celebrated for defying barriers and contributing towards the socio-economic development of the country.
In the third year of “Unsung Women Nation Builders Awards”, seven women were presented with awards along with the opportunity to share their stories at a gala programme at the International Convention City Bashundhara (ICCB) in Dhaka this evening.
Like the previous two years, the initiative of 2019 has recognised the outstanding contribution of the 7 women in socio-economic development of the country to honour these unsung women for their ingenuities.
“One may think that wealth and power are necessary to be able to bring changes. These seven women will prove to us that all one needs to be a change maker is love for others, and nothing else,” Mahfuz Anam, editor and publisher of The Daily Star, said in the welcome speech.
“They are the examples of how we can collectively work to build the Sonar Bangla,” he added.
The seven women change makers were selected by a jury panel for their contribution in different sectors such as education, health, agriculture, self-development, courageous act and entrepreneurship.
This year the Jury Board was consisted of renowned personalities of the nation: Rubana Huq, managing director of Mohammadi Group; Rasheda K Choudhury, executive director of Campaign for Popular Education (CAMPE), and Anisul Hoque, an author, screenwriter, novelist, dramatist and journalist.
This year, more than 100 nominations were received and the jury selected the awardees based on their contribution in nation building.
The Chief Guest of the gala program, Muhammad Abdul Mannan, planning minister of Bangladesh, will hand over the crest and a cheque worth Tk 2 lakh to each awardee.
The seven Unsung Women Nation Builders Awardees 2019 are:
Despite being a victim of the cruelest form of familial and social injustices, Hazera Begum, a former sex worker, has managed to change her life through contributing to changing the lives of others.
Read More: Of a mother of 40 children
She always had the urge to get out of the vicious circle that fate had put her in. With that view, she opened ‘Shishuder Jonno Aamra’, a child development centre, with her savings from work as a sex worker. It exclusively works towards ensuring a better future for the street children and children of sex workers.
During the Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971, Khurshid Jahan fought courageously in the south-west part of the country alongside her male comrades.
Read More: The tigress of Sundarbans
During the war, she was the commander of the women fighters in the Sundarbans sub-sector-9. After taking 21 days of training on throwing grenades, fighting with guns, swimming and rowing boats, she trained the other women in the camp and supervised several logistical activities.
Hiroko Kobayashi, an 88-year old Japanese national, has been financially supporting Bangladeshi girls since 2003. Her main objective is to uplift female students.
Read More: From Japan with love
Cherishing women’s empowerment since her own childhood, she wishes to stand beside those female students who come from economically disadvantaged families. Till now, more than 100 students got her support to continue their studies.
Bilkis Banu is the founder of ‘Golap Kha Shishu Shanad’ which is currently fostering about 55 orphans. She is providing them with education and encourages them to participate in several extra-curricular activities. She also makes sure that the children are getting proper religious and moral teaching.
Read More: Driven by love for orphans
The orphanage is mainly funded by income from Pritilata Super Market owned by Bilkis Banu and her husband.
Rupa Dutta, a UNHCR official from Chittagong, organised her friends and started giving support to a residential school in the remote hills of Bandarban.
Currently, 92 students are getting education in the school at Mro para in Lama and 13 others live in the hostel in Bandarban. They have been doing it for the last seven years.
After losing her son to cancer, Salma Chowdhury has been running a home called ASHIC (A Shelter for Helpless Ill Children) for children diagnosed with cancer for the last 16 years. She also has an oncology and palliative care center in Dhaka’s Dhanmondi.
Read More: For children with cancer
Accommodation for the children and their female attendants are provided without any cost. ASHIC has, so far, served thousands of children.
Chhobi Das Gupta
After the death of her father, Chhobi Das Gupta began working as a garment worker at the age of 12. She dropped out of school and became the bread winner of a family of seven struck hard by poverty. She later managed admission at Bangladesh Open University as well but had to step back again due to financial stress.
Read More: From worker to apparel entrepreneur
For 18 years she worked at different garment factories. She then opened ‘Sense Fashion’ in 2016. She hired six workers and bought 10 sewing machines with a capital of Tk 7 lakh, of which Tk 5 lakh came from 18 years of her own savings and the rest she borrowed.
Now she has more than 100 workers employed at her venture and 60 sewing machines operational there.