a microbiologist at ICDDR,B and founder faculty member of
the Microbiology Department of Dhaka University, Saiyeda Qudsiya
Akhtar has come a long way. Today she is the founder of Ibrahim
Shohbat Meer Welfare Organisation, a trust formed on February
18, 1989. The organisation is named after her late eldest
son who met his untimely and tragic end in a swimming pool
accident in 1988. As Qudsiya puts it: "I gave up my job
in 1991. I just wanted to keep the name of my son alive."
has two aims: to provide health and education to the underprivileged
women, and orphans in particular. Under education, since 1991
the trust has established 42 libraries in orphanages all over
Bangladesh. The long term aim is to set up 2,400 libraries
in all the orphanages in the country. "If we have the
funds, we can set up 2, 400 libraries within two years,"
maintains Qudsiya, the daughter of the late Professor Saiyed
Abdul Hai, professor of Dhaka University and Salina Sultana,
teacher at the Central Women's University.
library of the trust caters to orphan girls in the age group
of 6-18 years. The six feet by three and a half feet library
has a wooden almirah with glass doors, 1000 books and a small
to the orphanage Sharkari Shishu Parivar, Tejgaon throws light
on the functioning of such libraries. Probably, among the
best of its kind in the country, the orphanage of 200 girls,
has story books, travel, life histories, classical books like
Nazrul, Tagore and popular authors. Lucky, in class six, says
that she goes to the library every day during the holidays.
She likes story books and is in the midst of reading Ekushey
Palash because it is about the freedom struggle.
no, the TV habit or other distractions have not made these
girls into couch potatoes. Many orphanages do not have a TV
and some restrict the viewing to a few days. At the Tejgaon
orphanage, for instance, watching TV is possible only three
days a week for drama/cinema and news everyday on BTV.
is content with the response. "The orphan girls often
phone me and say 'Aunty please give us some more books'. They
are really interested in reading," she asserts.
has also opened a library in Dhaka Central Jail. The objective
is to start an income generation project for women prisoners.
The capital for this project will be provided by the trust
fund. The benefits will go to the individual prisoners. This
small amount may change their lives when they are released
from prison. This incentive moreover, may also make it easier
for the women to get through their prison terms.
Qudsiya runs a small home-based library in her Dhanmondi office.
has also given 16 scholarships for underprivileged women.
This is a lifeline for the orphans who are released from the
orphanages when they are 18 years old.
presented by a teacher from Jahangirnagar University at a
Zonta Club meeting revealed that last year thousands of girls
and women were trafficked from Bangladesh on the record and
many cases went unrecorded. "The problem is that the
orphanages do not know where those girls go after they are
18," says Qudsiya. "That teacher mentioned that
most of the trafficked girls are from the orphanages."
gives scholarships of Taka 1, 000 a month for each girl. The
aim is that they will stand on their feet in various professions,
whether it is as nurses, para-medics or technicians. Other
options are running bakeries or shops. Small help has come
the way of the trust from local donors. To cite an example,
Millenium Hospital has offered to train 10 orphan girls in
nursing free of cost. However, there is a hurdle: the lack
of girls with a science background.
was inspired to go into a full fledged scholarship programme
following her first success with a girl (who she prefers not
to name) from an orphanage. Left in the orphanage at the tender
age of two years by her housemaid mother, the young girl could
very well have been another forgotten name. The trust, however,
came forward to support her with a scholarship of Taka 1,000
a month when she was in Class six. The aim was to give her
this sum so that she could improve her standard. Now in her
second year of Master's, she has successfully completed her
SSC, intermediate and BA exams. She has married into a good
family and works in an insurance company. Her husband knows
about her background and the couple will soon be proud parents.
"This example inspired me to start a scholarship programme
for orphan girls," says Qudsiya.
new for the self-professed 'ambitious' Qudsiya? There are
several projects which she hopes to oversee, but she focuses
on her newly launched quarterly science magazine Mashuq
for the young, an institute of biotechnology and a small orphanage.
As she explains, "There is a big need for such a biotechnology
institute because currently we get all our vaccines from overseas.
We have talent which is apparent in the performance of our
young people in biotechnological institutes overseas. If they
can do it for other countries, why can't they do it for our
own? We just don't have the facility."
idea is to open an orphanage for only 100 children in Dhaka.
The aim is to give them life long guidance, not just send
them away at the age of 18 years, as is the current practice
Shohbat Meer Welfare Organisation is a beacon of hope for
the underprivileged, particularly orphan girls. As the case
studies testify, there is many a success story to light the
(R) thedailystar.net 2004