With just under a quarter of people in Bangladesh living in poverty, daily life can be challenging.
Living in Haripur, one of the most impoverished and remote areas in Thakurgaon in north-west Bangladesh, mother-of-three Marufa was one of millions of people struggling to survive:
I was losing hope. I wasn’t able to continue my education after I left school so I longed for my children to complete theirs. But I asked myself, how?
Where would I find work? We were so poor. How would we earn money and manage our expenses? I was losing hope…
With a little experience in sewing, Marufa earned a living as a tailor but had to stop working when her health deteriorated. Her husband works as a day labourer and earns very little, leaving the family struggling to afford regular meals, let alone education for their children.
However, thanks to Islamic Relief, Marufa was able to turn her life around – alhamdulillah!
Marufa joined our women’s empowerment programme in Haripur, which supported 2,000 women in rural Bangladesh and her life was completely transformed!
Self-help groups: Providing a life-changing opportunity
To support local women in Bangladesh, including Marufa, we set up 67 self-help groups and provided training on income-generating activities to enable women to earn a living.
We also offered loans to each family to help socially and financially empower local women, as well as reduce gender-based discrimination.
In their weekly meetings, group members discuss various social, health and human rights issues. They also deposit small savings and rice here.
Alhamdulillah, Marufa and 162 other women received training at the sub-district agriculture, fisheries and information offices. With her newly acquired skills and confidence, Marufa was then selected as the treasurer of a self-help group that encourages group savings:
At first I was shaky, but others supported me. There were 25 women in our group. I started managing all the work including the group’s accounts, funds and meeting documents. Slowly I picked things up and worked diligently.
Thanks to the group, Marufa was able to borrow money to purchase two goats. She then paid off the loan within a few months and borrowed further funds to buy a cow.
Marufa has since bought a piece of land where she grows crops and can provide for her family:
I had to bear a lot of hardship with my three children. I would always worry about how I would cover the cost of their education. But now I have overcome all my fears.
I am now financially stable. I purchased land where I now grow rice. After purchasing the land, all my children are now continuing their education.
I [then] obtained a job at the Fisheries Department and receive a [regular] salary.
Now Marufa is financially stable and can ensure her children receive an education. But the story doesn’t end there…
Advocating for her community: Becoming an inspiration to others
Marufa’s story is one of determination and inspiration.
She was already a confident and very popular member of the community, but the Islamic Relief training Marufa received was key to triggering Marufa’s confidence and changing her life:
Islamic Relief paved the way for me to connect with local government officials and get training. That opportunity has helped make me resilient.
With a new job and increased confidence, Marufa is now a beacon of hope for thousands of women in Haripur, Bangladesh.
SubhanAllah, she is now a supervisor for six self-help groups, leading 180 members. She listens and cares deeply about the concerns of her group members and has gained their trust and respect.
Advocating her community’s concerns in local government, she now has the social connections to champion their issues and make an impact.
Marufa not only works in a male-dominated environment with confidence but is respected as an influential leader in local government. She regularly attends meetings, seminars, workshops and events representing her community:
I never imagined I could attend meetings with high-level officials. Now they offer me a seat beside them.
Now I know women can accomplish their goals if we receive the right training and support.
Recognising how she’s been able to transform her life, Marufa now wants to see other women become financially and socially empowered like her.
Empowering women in Bangladesh: Dreaming of a better future for all
Alhamdulillah, Marufa is actively pushing for positive change in her community. She is championing a change in attitudes towards early and forced marriage, domestic violence and wider issues of gender equality, such as encouraging girls to continue their education.
Not only this, but Marufa has also created a platform in the community for safeguarding against violence and has arranged counselling for teenage school dropouts, bringing them back into education.
This is in addition to advocating for local authorities to provide blankets and other essential items to people in need.
Alhamdulillah, Marufa has ensured that people with disabilities have the tools they need to make their lives easier, whilst also helping to provide pregnancy and disability allowances for local residents.
While Marufa motivates other women to follow her footsteps, her own dream now is to compete in union elections. She wants to be elected as a local union council member (working on a governmental basis) order to have more influence in helping other communities.
From struggling to earn enough money to feed and educate her children, Marufa has worked hard to build a dignified life and claim a respected place in society:
Now I have great respect in my family and community as well as society.
Once I did not even know how to talk [confidently] but today I can… communicate with people at all levels.
I am so grateful to Islamic Relief for extending their support to me and for changing my life.
SubhanAllah, it’s incredible to see the positive transformation and see Marufa’s confidence go from strength to strength. May Marufa’s success continue!
Alhamdulillah, it’s thanks to your generous donations that we’ve been able to provide such opportunities to help empower, uplift and support women like Marufa across Bangladesh. This is critical work.
Thank you for supporting our life-transforming work. You truly are life-savers!
Find out more about our work in Bangladesh supporting local communities.