Taslima Begum's Tale of Success
A simple village woman, Taslima Begum of Pirgachhi village of the Shibgonj upazila in Chapainawabganj, some 330 km away from Dhaka, enjoyed the rare glory of receiving the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the Grameen Bank on 10 December 2006.
Taslima Begum is a successful entrepreneur who crossed many hurdles to get to where she stands today. She used her first Tk. 1,500 loan from the bank in 1992 to buy a goat. Since then she has become a successful entrepreneur and was one of the elected board members of the bank. She accepted the Nobel Prize on behalf of Grameen Bank's investors and borrowers at the prize giving ceremony held at Oslo City Hall in Norway.
She was born in a poor family at the Shibgonj upazila in Chapainawabganj. She could not proceed to go beyond class five at school due to financial problems at home. She had to get married at an early age. But her husband's household was also financially constrained, they had no land and her husband was never employed.
She had seen many others who were facing problems similar to hers in the area, who later went ahead to change their luck through small businesses such as poultry rearing financed by microloans from the Grameen Bank. So, she too contacted her village branch of Grameen Bank and became a member on 2 May 1992.
Taslima Begum also opened a watch repairing shop for her husband Abu Hanif using loans as well. She grew vegetables and reared poultry at her own house. In total, she has taken loans equivalent of about Tk. 2,00,000, received at different times. At present she has no outstanding loans, yet she is still a member of Grameen Bank. She now owns a power tiller and a mango orchard. Her orchard on one bigha land provides her a yearly profit of Tk. 25,000. She invested Tk. 5,00,000 in the mango orchard, and is also involved with other small businesses.
With the money she had been saving over the years, she recently built a concrete house for her family. Earlier she used to live in a tiny hut. Taslima transformed herself into an entrepreneur from a poor woman. Today, Taslima is a well off person and now she has about Tk 12 lac or 1.2 million takas under her name. She is a beacon of women's empowerment in the economy.
Taslima Begum is an elected member of the Board of Directors of Grameen Bank. She has been known as the best member in the center. She has been deemed most reliable by fellow members who love and respect her. According to her peers, she is more competent in the development and organizational works of the centre and so was made chief of the centre. There was a workshop held at the branch with all the heads of centre, where Taslima presented her experience with Grameen Bank along with the story of her economic development. Being praised as the most competent from all sides at the workshop, she was selected as branch representative. After that she was selected as a representative at a regional level and area level over time and was eventually nominated as a Member of the Grameen Bank's Board of Directors. She served as a Board Member for four years (2005 to 2009).
Her firstborn, Ashraful Haque, recently joined the local police department, while her youngest, Abul Awal Siam, is a student of class one of Chapainawabganj Pre Asian Cadet School and College. She spent much of her money on her son's education. “We are self-reliant now. We are happy for the services that we received from Grameen Bank," said Taslima. “Yunus sir is an umbrella for rural people; an icon for women like me. He provided an honourable way out of poverty for me and has even given me international prestige.”
When authorities of the Nobel committee declared that the Nobel Prize was to go to Grameen Bank and Dr. Yunus on 13 October 2006, all the Unit Chiefs of Grameen Bank picked Taslima to represent the bank at the award giving ceremony. This was the first time in the history of the Nobel prize, that a poor woman from a rural part of a developing country received the Nobel Prize.
The proud entrepreneur said if the government and other NGO's come forward with serious intentions, small entrepreneurs in the country could succeed. “There are many entrepreneurs around us, but they receive very little guidance. The government and NGO's should encourage them,” says Taslima. “All women entrepreneurs should receive cooperation and guidance from government agencies, banks and NGO's, similar to what I received from the Grameen Bank. Then Bangladesh can be rid of its economic problems.”