The six Bangladeshi recipients of the prestigious Diana Award spoke with The Business Standard about their work and ambitions for the future
Six young changemakers from Bangladesh - Sakia Haque, Sabira Mehrin, Sheikh Inzamamuzzaman, Muhammad Jahirul Islam, Rafiul Haque Anter and Shah Rafayat Chowdhury - brought Bangladesh to the forefront when "The Diana Award" this year decided to reward their social and humanitarian work. The Bangladeshi recipients were conferred with the award on July 1 via a virtual ceremony.
The six Bangladeshi youngsters have not only demonstrated strong willpower to serve the underprivileged communities and bring forth long lasting societal changes, their contributions have also given Bangladesh a reason to be proud of.
The Diana Award was established in memory of Princess Diana in 1999. Each year, the award aims to recognise social and humanitarian works of youngsters from different corners of the world. The Diana Award, is given out by the charity of the same name and is supported by her sons.
In talks with The Business Standard, the six recipients of the award spoke more about their work and contributions that have had a positive impact on the society.
Co-founder of Travelettes of Bangladesh
On November 27, 2016, Sakia Haque, a young doctor, co-founded "Travelettes of Bangladesh", an online community of over 50,000 female members, with Dr Manoshi Saha. Sakia initiated the community as a Facebook group to encourage women to travel and raise awareness on issues related to travelling, such as hotel booking. The group has recently become a government-supported organisation.
Travelettes of Bangladesh works towards educating women on safe travelling. Sakia also sees the platform as an opportunity to educate younger women about health issues such as menstruation.
The group, since its inception, has completed many trips for female travellers.
"We started the group with the motto to empower women to travel. At the moment we have 51,000 female members in our group and we have organised 83 trips across Bangladesh for them," Sakia said.
"You know, somebody has to nominate you for The Diana Award and in the beginning, I didn't know who nominated me," she added, laughing.
Continuing, she said, "A friend of a friend informed me that I was one of the recipients of The Diana Award this year from Bangladesh. Later, I emailed the foundation and found out that I actually won the award," adding, "I was very excited and happy and later got to know that a young member of our organisation nominated me."
Founder of Wander Woman
"Wander Woman" is a platform that inspires women to step outside of their comfort zones and travel the world at an affordable cost. In 2017, Sabira Mehrin, who is a passionate traveller herself, founded the inclusive community to bring female travellers of Bangladesh under one umbrella.
This year, the online community had plans to initiate lessons for women on swimming, driving, riding scooty etc. However, these plans have been stalled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Sabira was nominated for the award by her good friend Tasmia Afroze Mohona. "My friend has seen my struggles to establish the platform and I used to share my ideas and plans with her," said Sabira.
"In September, 2017, I started the community as a Facebook group with 200 members and the numbers increased to a thousand overnight. Our first trip was a day trip outside Dhaka with 100 women," she added.
As the group has grown in size, Wander Women now organises both domestic and international trips for women at affordable rates. "Our goal is to provide women with affordable tour plans and they can pay all the travel expenses in instalments," Sabira informed.
Wander Women is the first travelling platform to offer such facilities, which has made travelling more accessible for women of all walks of life. The platform also promotes female entrepreneurs through "Wonder Ventures", under which the organisation regularly arranges events and seminars.
Founder of Study Buddy
Sheikh Inzamamuzzaman is the founder of "Study Buddy" -- a startup that provides alternative learning platforms to children with learning difficulties. Study Buddy was formed through a start-up competition organised by German Embassy in 2018.
Study Buddy uses interactive tools such as augmented reality and gaming to help children with dyslexia, dyscalculia and dysgraphia receive education. Since 2018, the organisation has supported over 1,000 children and 1,500 parents.
"We make tools and resources for children who need alternative learning methods since they can't learn in traditional ways," said Sheikh, adding, "I have organised 17 social campaigns to raise awareness on the issue."
Upon being asked how he was nominated for the award, Sheikh said, "Someone who is familiar with your work has to nominate you. One of the special educators who has been working closely with me nominated me."
"Eventually we are creating a community in which kids with learning disabilities are empowered," Sheikh said.
Inazamamuddin also bagged Commonwealth Youth Award early this year.
Muhammad Jahirul Islam
Founder of Ignite Youth Foundation
Ignite Youth Foundation (IYF) is a non-profit organization founded by Muhammad Jahirul Islam on February 2, 2016. IYF works with underprivileged children, women and youth empowerment, environment, poverty, health and hygienic, gender and social discrimination, child rights, youth empowerment, and development, etc.
The organisation is run by a group of youngsters who are determined to bring positive changes in society.
"I have lots of dreams, plans, and programs surrounding my organisation. I plan to incorporate secondary, higher secondary, and university education with IYF," Jahirul said, adding that he also wants to open an IT centre to simplify and promote awareness about technical and IT-based education and training for students of rural areas, prioritizing female learners.
Rafiul Haque Anter
Organising Secretary, Dhaka Division, Volunteer for Bangladesh at JAAGO Foundation
Rafiul Haque Anter is one of the changemakers at JAAGO Foundation, where he has been working for the last seven years. He works to eradicate poverty by providing education to underprivileged children.
Rafiul is a core member of the foundation's "Sponsor a Child" campaign. He has been working with Jaago for seven years, and has led multiple campaigns on socio-economic issues. Rafiul is the organising secretary of the Dhaka division of 'Volunteer for Bangladesh,' the youth wing of Jaago Foundation.
"I was nominated for the award by Korvi Rakshand (Founder of Jaago) and I am very grateful to him for this," Rafiul said.
Shah Rafayat Chowdhury
Co-founder and president of Footsteps Bangladesh
Young environmentalist Shah Rafayat Chowdhury is the co-founder and president of Footsteps Bangladesh - an organisation formed in 2013 that works to provide safe and clean drinkable water, sanitation, waste management and disaster response for the underprivileged and marginalised communities of Bangladesh.
Rafayat was nominated by the Swiss NGO, Global Changemakers, for The Diana Award for his work on ensuring safe water for the marginalized communities across Bangladesh through Project Trishna of Footsteps Bangladesh.
"Project Trishna" by Footsteps was launched in 2015 to help the marginalised community access drinking water. The project is currently operating in 53 areas for 75,000 people across Dhaka, Chattogram and Tangail.
"I started my affiliation with Global Changemakers (GCM) in 2017 when I was selected as one of the 60 young leaders to attend the Global Youth Summit in Zurich. GCM has been a mentor and financially supporting our initiatives ever since," Rafayat said.