A warrior in the fight against the pandemic
"Having two young children and an elderly mother-in-law at home, it was dangerously risky for me to go out during the pandemic. Still, I couldn't leave my work and my community behind," shares Haowa Khanam, a socio-economic and nutrition facilitator (SENF) of the Shonirvor CDC Cluster under the Livelihoods Improvement of Urban Poor Communities (LIUPC) project of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
As soon as the pandemic hit, 35-year-old Haowa and her team were out in the field with banners and leaflets containing COVID-19 safety guidelines. She also worked on installing hand-washing stations and carried out training sessions to teach people of her community at Korail Slum the importance of proper hand-washing. However, even though she was going out to work for the greater good of the community, not everyone was supportive of her actions.
"Initially, people in my community did not approve of me going outside my house during the pandemic and tried to stop me multiple times," shares Haowa. She had to explain to them how her PPE would protect her from the virus and that they need not worry. "I viewed the pandemic as a kind of war. During wars, you don't only think about yourself but about what's best for all the people around you. And that's exactly what I did," she continues. She and her team also faced resistance from the police, with one of their operations being completely shut down. "We didn't give up. We changed the way we worked and continued serving the community," says Haowa.
Haowa's career started at a garments factory soon after she got married. Later on, she found work at BRAC, where she spent around eight years. "Then my child fell ill, and I had to leave Dhaka. It was a huge struggle financially for me without work," recounts Haowa. After two years, she was back in the capital, looking for work at an NGO again since she had found her calling – social work. She quickly found a job at UNDP in 2019 and has since been working tirelessly in her role.
"The fact that I can stand by my community during a global pandemic and share advice that can help improve their lives is something I'm greatly proud of," shares Haowa. She hopes to continue her work in the future and has dreams of seeing her two little girls grow up to be successful women.
Photo: Rashed Shumon