Rahul lends an ear to ‘empowered’ Bangladeshi women

August 3rd, 2008 - 3:37 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Sonia Gandhi

Dhaka, Aug 3 (IANS) Rahul Gandhi, general secretary of India’s Congress party, is on a “learning visit” to Bangladesh and he is doing what he does back home - listening to stories of impoverished women and how they became financially independent. However, those he met at Kapasia in Gazipur subdivision near here are better off than Kalavati, the woman in Maharashtra whom he spoke about in the Indian parliament July 22. Kalavati’s husband had committed suicide over his inability to repay a farm loan.

The women here are covered by the Grameen Bank, the rural credit network of Bangladesh.

Rahul, son of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, is being hosted by the Grameen Bank’s founder and Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus and Bangladesh Rural Advancement Centre (BRAC), the country’s largest NGO engaged in work in rural areas. He is here to learn how these organisations function.

Rahul spoke to Fatema Begum who was forced to quit her studies after passing the senior secondary certificate (SSC) examination in 1993, the Daily Star newspaper said Sunday.

The 30-year-old woman, who became financially independent after she began selling medicines for common seasonal diseases, resumed her studies last year and is set to take the higher secondary exams next year.

“I send my two sons to school and bear all the expenses of my family,” Fatema told Rahul.

Like Fatema, Amena, Nargis, Farzana, Monwara and Hamida are among 30 members of BRAC’s microfinance programme in Lahuripara. They also turned up to tell Rahul their success stories.

The Congress leader, who is on a five-day visit, patiently heard how these women lifted themselves out of poverty after receiving small loans and training on farming, fishing and cattle rearing.

The 38-year-old also visited BRAC’s pre-primary and primary schools, human rights and legal education classes, ante-natal care facilities, community library, adolescent centre and teachers training programme in Gazipur amid tight security.

“But the members of police, Rapid Action Battalion, Special Security Force and Indian security team could not stop him from interacting with common people who gathered at different places to see him,” the newspaper said.

After visiting Lahuripara, Rahul went to Torgaon East village where 26 students of BRAC’s pre-primary school recited rhymes, danced and sang patriotic songs. These students get free education material and don’t have to pay any tuition fees.

He stood up when the students of Raonite primary school sang the national anthem.

“So, when are you coming to India for a visit?” he asked the kids.

And they replied: “When we grow a little more.”

Mahbub Hossain, executive director of BRAC, accompanied Rahul and his team members, including Rajiv Gandhi Foundation Secretary Gyanendra Badgaiyan and trustee Suman Dubey, during their visit.

Gandhi also met BRAC chairperson Fazle Hasan Abed and visited Grameen Bank’s projects.

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