In case you havenâ€™t figured it out yet, Iâ€™ve reached Dhaka safe and sound! Over 24 hours of traveling (19 hour lay over in Singapore, eek!), 5 delicious Muslim meals, 7 carry on bags, 100 pages of President Obamaâ€™s autobiography, and one Nikon D40, alas, Iâ€™ve made it.
I sort of craved the smog, the heat, the odor of rotting street trash, the erratic harmony of rikshaw bells and car honks, and the monotonous pleas of street beggars. And oh boy, when I got the first whiff of sooty Bangladeshi air, I knew I was home. It was a pleasant reunion.
On the 9th, I had the pleasure of spending my day with Deni Robey, Americans for UNFPA Vice President of Public Affairs and Nicole Paprocki (check out her blog at http://www.americansforunfpa.blogspot.com/Â ) to visit a womenâ€™s empowerment organization in Bangladesh named Tarango (meaning river waves in Bengali-symbolic of women rising with the waves). Words cannot fully express what I saw and felt that day. I felt hope, I sensed beauty, I saw community, and most significantly, I was surrounded by progressive minded women. The women seeking aid from Tarango are flawless. I use the term flawless because they truly are. They are kind, ambitious, patient, and endlessly warm to everyone around them-with a sense of humor too! But theyâ€™re not only women- theyâ€™re also mothers, wives, and even grandmothers-incredibly proud ones. From what I saw, Tarango was obviously more than a place to work, it was a haven for women seeking community, friendship, and basic human rights.
Meeting Ms. Kohinoor Yeasmin, the current manager of Tarango, was also deeply influential. She spoke vibrantly about the women in Tarango, the work being done, and most importantly, the work she aspires to accomplish in the future. Sheâ€™s a modest dreamer. Every time she outlined a potential plan, she always concluded with, â€œbut itâ€™s only a dream right now.â€ But every reality starts with a dream, and Iâ€™m certain that Ms. Yeasmin-with her caliber and passion-can make all her dreams true for the women in Tarango.
On a side note, later that afternoon, Deni, Nicole, and I had the chance to have lunch with Mr. Fuad Chowdhury- a renowned film director in Bangladesh. He gave us a quick tour of his company, United Network Limited, and explained a bit of what he did. His work ranged from directing advertisements, to short commercial films, to even Bangladeshi Sesame Street episodes! But most remarkable of all was his involvement in producing documentary films. He took the time to share one of these films, â€œNodeer Mohonai Barisaler Mehndigonjâ€ (Mehendigonj of Barisal at Estuary of Meghna). It was a beautiful short film about how the people of Mehendigonj are seeking national and international aid to stop the river erosion for the rehabilitation of those affected. I brought a copy with me and am hoping to share it with the Seattle community!
It has just been so gratifying to see Bangladeshis empowering minorities at so many levels!