Former Abuse Victim Empowers Women to Fight Violence

bangladesh_0-previewIt is challenging as a woman in Bangladesh to thrive in a male-dominated society. A strong woman has to be a survivor. Manowara Afroz Saleha is a model of such a powerful woman. From childhood, Saleha dreamed of being a teacher and someone who worked for the development and betterment of society.

Saleha was born in 1969 in the union of Channilakhiya and the village of Kumarikanda. Her father stayed with his family in Netrokona district to tend to his agricultural work. Her mother was a homemaker. Saleha was the eldest among two siblings. Sadly, her younger brother died at the age of six.

As the only daughter she was adored by her parents. Her parents wanted her to be well educated. Unfortunately, the role of women in her community did not make that possible. In 1976, Saleha’s father became terribly sick and passed away. She was shocked by this sudden tragedy and mourned for her father. She said she often felt there is no one else who understood and supported her in this world. After her father’s death a serious economic crisis made life seem utterly hopeless to her and her mother. As a result, they were compelled to seek shelter and support from a distant relative.

Despite this tragedy, Saleha continued to study and dedicate herself to hard work. She started her primary education at Nurul Ulum Khareji Madrasa in Netrokona. In 1981, she received her Dakhil degree successfully from Gituary Dakhil Balika Madrasa in Mymensing district. After her Dakhil degree, she began planning for the next stage of education. She talked to her cousin Mr. Mokammel Haq who arranged a job for her. Thus, she moved to live with her cousin in Chittagong district. Regrettably, Saleha was deceived by her cousin who simply wanted to marry her, not employ her. She was forced to marry him and, rather than continue her studies, became a house wife. Determined to continue learning, however, Saleha received a one year sewing training from Mohila Bishoyok Odhidoptor in 1990.

With her new sewing skills, Saleha became more self-reliant and got a job at BRAC N.F.P School as a teacher, even though she was not highly educated. She felt that her job and her marital life were going quit well until she got into a dispute with her mother-in-law. Saleha’s mother-in-law demanded a dowry which Saleha’s mother would not agree to pay. This conflict led Saleha’s husband to be brutal and physically abusive and, one night, abandon her on rail road tracks. Neighbors picked her up from the rail line and made sure she got treatment from the hospital. With time, Saleha recovered, filed a case against her husband’s family and won retribution. Saleha’s husband agreed never to abuse her again so she returned to the relationship.

Henceforth, Saleha’s was determined to gain a broader understanding about the condition of women in society. She made a plan to mobilize women to fight violence against women. In 2005, she established Shapla Shomobay Shomity to promote self-help work and various other social programs. Today there are nearly 35 members in this organization. They currently have around 30,000 taka (US $375) to conduct activities and continue to save more each month.

Through her this social work, Saleha was introduced to the Union Parishad seat member Ms. Sahinur. Ms. Shahinur introduced Saleha to The Hunger Project-Bangladesh’s animator trainings. Saleha completed the training successfully in 2006.

With her new training, Saleha expanded her work and established a kindergarten school for underprivileged children called Roj Kindergarten School. This school is entirely directed by voluntary service. Saleha is the head teacher of this school where she works with three other teachers to educate nearly 100 children.

Saleha went on to received additional training in the Women Leadership Foundation Course from THP-Bangladesh in 2010. As a result of this training, she realized that empowered women are capable of incredible growth and development. She feels that every woman needs to receive this training. Saleha is now also working to stop child marriage and working with women in her region to provide sewing training. She also expects to be elected as a member of her union parishad and has plans to establish an organization (Baondho Kutir Shilpo) to rehabilitate and mobilize the older women in the community.

Saleha is not only working for women’s empowerment and the underprivileged children but also for sanitation. She has arranged meetings, rallies, and stage dramas to educate people about the importance of using sanitary latrines.

Though Saleha is not formally educated, she has been working for the underprivileged people in society with incredible skill. With an extreme effort she has becomes successful in fulfilling her childhood dream.

International Day of the Girl Child

Girls’s Progress = Goals’ Progress: Celebrating International Day of the Girl Child


The achievement of gender equality is imperative for our future. The complete empowerment of women and girls is not only crucial to improving the lives of families and communities, but is also key to creating sustainable change. That’s why each year we celebrate International Day of the Girl Child on October 11, a day to join global efforts to ensure a world free of discrimination for girls.


This year’s theme is Girls’ Progress = Goals’ Progress: A Global Girl Data Movement, and raises awareness about the limited use and the lack of systematic analysis that further limits our ability to examine and share in the well-being of half of the world.


Today, more girls are in school, less girls are being married before the age of 18, and more young women are growing up to be successful agents of their own change. However, there is still a lot of progress to be made—and part of the way to get there is through data.
Indeed, this year, the global community is urged to place greater emphasis on collecting and analyzing data that is particularly girl-focused, girl-relevant and sex disaggregated. This call for action comes in recognition of the fact that while the ambition of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for girls must be celebrated, there exists a significant gap in the data available on girls and young women.


In a world that increasingly relies on data-driven technology to diagnose and provide adequate support for various movements, we must emphasize the collection and the proper evaluation of information on the position of women and girls.


That’s why The Hunger Project places a huge importance on gender-specific Monitoring and Evaluation including:


  • Collecting sex disaggregated data in areas such as child health monitoring, attendance in school, financial inclusion and child marriage
  • Developing The Hunger Project’s Women’s Empowerment Index, which measures women’s empowerment in five key domains
  • Creating of our Maternal Health Dashboard, which has been crucial in providing easy access to reliable and vital data on women and child health
  • Our recently launched Her Choice program to end child marriage is evaluating girls 12-under 18 on if they are able to decide if, when, and whom to marry.

This focus on measurement also must go hand-in-hand with on-the-ground programs that emphasize girls. The Hunger Project-Bangladesh, for example, leads a vast network of 500 NGOs, government ministries, schools, colleges and women’s organizations in the National Girl Child Advocacy Forum, which advocates for the importance of providing better healthcare, nutrition and education to girls.


Since the year 2000, The Hunger Project-Bangladesh celebrates National Girl Child Day on September 30, with rallies, events, discussions, competitions and more. For the first time ever this year, the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs of the Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh are officially observing the day countrywide.

In addition, the National Girl Child Advocacy Forum is publishing a special supplement in a national daily newspaper, that will include voices from the President, Prime Minister, State Minister of Women and Children Affair and The Hunger Project’s-Bangladesh Country Director and National Girl Child Advocacy Forum President Dr. Badiul Alam Majumdar.


This Day of the Girl Child, let’s reaffirm our commitment to empowering girls to lead healthy and secure lives. Girls have already changed the world for the better, and this generation has the power to magnify that change.

National Girl Child Day in Bangladesh

The future of Bangladesh resides in the future of its girls.

For as long as girls are treated as inferior and less valuable than boys, high levels of malnutrition will persist and Bangladesh will suffer impaired economic growth. National Girl Child Day is a national strategy that seeks to improve the status of and end discrimination against girls in Bangladeshi society.

Since 2000, Bangladesh has celebrated National Girl Child Day each September 30. It has been chosen as one day of the annual Children’s Rights Week. Actions are organized at both the national and local levels. In 2012, the United Nations officially designated October 11 as the first International Day of the Girl.

National Level

A unified campaign. The Hunger Project is working with a broad network of government ministries, NGOs, women’s organizations, schools, colleges and the media to raise awareness across the nation to the critical importance of providing better health, education and nutrition to girls as an investment for the future of the country. This network, called the National Girl Child Advocacy Forum, unites more than 500 organizations under this cause.

Rallies and marches. In Dhaka, as well as in remote rural areas, organizations rally their constituencies to hold teach-ins and marches in support of National Girl Child Day.

Media coverage. National Girl Child day generates powerful media coverage in newspapers and on television and radio, educating the public on the critical importance of this issue.

Local Level

A crucial element of the National Girl Day Strategy is to fully involve Bangladesh’s rural population, the vast majority of the country’s people.

Local-level celebrations. Observations of National Girl Child Day are organized with people’s associations, NGOs, and local government so that all people in the nation have the opportunity to participate.

A celebration at every school. In 2013 for the first time, the Government of Bangladesh instructed every school to observe National Girl Child Day, supporting a celebration at every educational institution throughout Bangladesh.

Visionary youth. National Girl Child Day essay and art contests are held in schools across the country. Both boys and girls win prizes for writing about the importance of better health and education for girls in Bangladeshi society.


An Empowered Woman – Raiza Sultana

After being denied a complete education because she was forced to marry at 14, Razia Sultana, from Bangladesh, now serves as both a model of self-reliance and an advocate for the education of girls and children in her community.

Hustling to find alternative methods to rescue her family from destitution, Razia was informed of The Hunger Project’s Women Leader Foundation Course. It was during this course that she realized that “every woman should be skilled and economically self-reliant… Otherwise, the problems of women could never be solved…”

Razia, now empowered with knowledge of how to change her situation, collaborated with The Hunger Project to set up a tailoring course and participate in an animator training and Participatory Action Research (PAR) training. In just a few days, Razia organized a self-help group consisting of 25 women from her village. This group met on a monthly basis, collecting savings, practicing PAR and discussing social issues.

But it was not until she attended a training on organic fertilizer that Razia had a truly eye-opening experience. Razia set up her own compost plant to produce organic fertilizer for her home garden and, with the support of The Hunger Project, learned about topics such as integrated pest management (organic IPM) and natural hormone production.RaziaFertilizer

Razia encouraged 20 other women in her village to set up their own organic compost plants. But she did not stop there. She also decided to learn how to raise poultry and livestock. Now, from tailoring, selling organic fertilizer, raising poultry and livestock, and accruing savings, Razia’s monthly income rounds out to about 8,000 taka ($102 USD) per month, allowing her to easily support the health and education of her children.

Although Razia could not complete her own education, she now goes beyond ensuring the education of her own children by serving as an advocate and model for the rest of her community to place value on child education. She also hosts community meetings on nutrition, income-generating activities, dowry, early marriage, birth registration, preventing domestic violence, and other important topics in hopes that every woman will become empowered and self-reliant.

Ghana Epicenters Achieve Targets for Self-Reliance

In eight countries of Africa, our Epicenter Strategy mobilizes clusters of rural villages into “epicenters,” which band together 5,000-15,000 people to create a dynamic center where communities are mobilized for action to meet their basic needs. This strategy is designed to partner with communities over a period of about eight years after which they graduate to a phase of “sustainable self-reliance,” which means that communities have demonstrated the confidence, capacity and skills to act as agents of their own development.

We are thrilled to announce that three epicenters in Ghana —  AtuobikromAkotekrom and Nsuta-Aweregya Epicenters —  have achieved the targets they set for declaring their self-reliance.

Self-reliant communities have demonstrated progress in the following eight goals:

  1. Mobilized rural communities that continuously set and achieve their own development goals;
  2. Empowered women and girls in rural communities;
  3. Improved access to safe drinking water and sanitation facilities in rural communities;
  4. Improved literacy and education in rural communities;
  5. Reduced prevalence of hunger and malnutrition in rural communities, especially for women and children;
  6. Improved access to and use of health resources in rural communities;
  7. Reduced incidence of poverty in rural communities; and
  8. Improved land productivity and climate resilience of smallholder farmers.

Community members of these epicenters have affirmed multiple local partnerships, created funding streams from revenue-generating activities and established gender-balanced leadership structures to support sustainable growth. The Hunger Project has activated its exit strategy, and it is anticipated that there will be no further financial inputs, with the exception of not-as-frequent staff visits and a post-evaluation three to five years later in a select number of epicenters.

This is a monumental achievement for these communities and all of the staff and investors who partnered with them along the way! The communities will be celebrating this milestone in July, so stay tuned for more news and photos!

Read more about self-reliance and how we measure it.

Find out more about the journeys of AtuobikromAkotekrom and Nsuta-Aweregya Epicenters.

Invest now in our work to end hunger and poverty worldwide.

Step It Up for Gender Equality – International Women’s Day 2016

“To be truly transformative, the post-2015 development agenda must prioritize gender equality and women’s empowerment. The world will never realize 100 percent of its goals if 50 percent of its people cannot realize their full potential.”

– Ban Ki-Moon, United Nations Secretary-General

International Women’s Day 2016: Step It Up for Gender Equality

March 8 is International Women’s Day, a day to honour women around the world, reflect on progress made and call for continued focus on achieving gender equality. The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality.” This year’s theme is focused on accelerating the 2030 Agenda – especially around the concrete commitments on gender equality, women’s rights and women’s empowerment – and building momentum for the effective implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

International Women’s Day will highlight Goal 5 of the SDGs: achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls. Women have a critical role to play in all of the SDGs with many targets specifically recognising women’s equality and empowerment as both the objective and as part of the solution. Goal 5 is known as the stand-alone gender goal because it is dedicated to achieving these ends.

While International Women’s Day celebrates the achievements in women’s equality, much progress still needs to be made. Women and girls make up more than half of the world’s population and they are often more deeply impacted than men and boys by poverty, climate change, food insecurity, lack of healthcare and global economic crises. Even though it is primarily women who provide food for their families, they account for more than 60 percent of the world’s hungry.

Deep legal and legislative changes are needed to ensure women’s rights around the world. While 143 countries guaranteed equality between men and women in their Constitutions by 2014, another 52 have not taken this step. In many nations, gender discrimination is still women through legal and social norms.

In addition, violence against women is pervasive, affecting women in all countries, even those that have made significant progress in other areas. Worldwide, 35 percent of women have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence.

Women have a right to equality in all areas. That’s why The Hunger Project works to empower women and girls in all of our programme areas, supporting women to help build their capacity. In India, The Hunger Project builds leadership skills among women who have been systematically denied information, freedom of motion and a voice in decision making. We support empowering the women electorate, encouraging voter participation among women and the election of women leaders to all panchayat (village council) seats.

At our epicentres across Africa, tens of thousands of women food farmers are increasing their incomes and strengthening their clout in the marketplace through our Microfinance Programme, training, credit and savings programme.  Nearly 73,000 women and men are participating in this programme, with more than 80% of loans distributed to women. Our Women’s Empowerment Programme throughout Africa and specialised animator trainings worldwide empower women to seek positions of leadership and train all of our partners, women and men, to take responsibility for improving lives in their communities.

And, to support us achieving the most impact possible, our new Women’s Empowerment Index is designed to measure progress in the multi-dimensional aspects of women’s empowerment, which will better inform and improve our programmes that target empowering women.

Overcoming gender inequality is absolutely critical to achieving the end of hunger.



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