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Oxfam in Bangladesh

Oxfam’s involvement in Bangladesh began in 1970 when it assisted the then cyclone victims and supported the displaced people of Bangladesh during the Liberation War in 1971. In recognition of our work in 1971, Oxfam was one of only three organisations honoured as a Friend of the Bangladesh Liberation War in 2012.  

 

I am independent

‘It’s not even close to being luxurious, but it means I am independent.’

In poor communities like Bangladesh’s Sehakathi Village, we’re empowering villagers socially and economically. Through our Resilience through Economic Empowerment, Climate Change Adaption, Leadership and Learning (REE-CALL) programme, we’re helping villagers form community-based organisations (CBOs), encouraging women to be leaders and helping villagers know their rights.

Marium Begum Moyuri stands proud having benefited from this programme, despite the difficulties she’s been through. ‘I was more or less destitute after my husband’s disappearance [seven days after the birth of my second child],’ Marium said speaking about her past. ‘My second marriage was nothing short of a nightmare. From beating me in public to psychologically abusing me, there was very little harm that [my second husband] didn’t expose me to … he too [eventually] vanished [so] I lived on other people’s grace.

‘It was around this time that I came to know about the REE-CALL project in the area … This was a major turning point in my life. I discussed with the CBO members and decided I had the skills to start and run a tea shop. So I received asset support to set up the shop and buy the necessary materials. It was the first time in my life I felt like I was taking control of my life. I was the one who was making the decisions that concerned me and my daughter.

‘I also received trainings on life skills and business management from REE-CALL. My business took off and slowly I started to rebuild my life. Within seven months [though], I lost most of my shop in an overnight act of thievery. I didn’t have enough savings by then to reinvest … But surprisingly, this time I didn’t feel despair. Since, becoming a member of CBO, I had a better appreciation of my abilities and rights, first as a human being and then as a woman. I knew I was not alone anymore. I talked to the CBO again. They sympathised with my predicament and gave me some complementary cash from the REE-CALL project to restock my shop.’ Through these CBOs, villagers like Marium can rest assured knowing that they have the support of others, even when disasters strike.

‘Look around you,’ Marium said inviting us to look around her shop, ‘it’s not even close to being luxurious, but it means I am independent.’

Photo: Ashish Kumar Bakshi/Oxfam in Bangladesh