By Nuzhat Hayat Khan (YES 2018-2019, Bangladesh, placed by AYA/AIFS in El Paso, TX)
On March 18th, 2022, I, along with other YES alumni organized "Project Nari O Rani Kothon" in Dhaka, Bangladesh. It was a one-day event to celebrate International Women’s Day. The event was a trade fair for female entrepreneurs which included a story-telling session that highlighted the journey of Bangladeshi women from different backgrounds of life.
The e-commerce field in Bangladesh is currently blooming with small businesses started by female entrepreneurs. This is a revolutionary era in Bangladesh, since, even in the recent past you wouldn’t see many women taking brave initiatives of starting something on their own in this country. We wanted to do something that honored these women. So we arranged a platform that not only showcased their amazing businesses, but also inspired others who may be hesitant to do the same. The fair was open to all and since it was a small-scale event, we had four stalls in our trade fair, each given by women entrepreneurs with incredible stories.
One of our stalls, Juneberry, was started amidst the pandemic by a teenager who wanted to do something productive with her creativity. She started making scrunchies at home and soon her online business flourished. Now, the business is run by her mother and sister, who still make and design all the scrunchies by themselves. Another stall had two sisters who make handmade jewelry and accessories with beads. They customize bracelets for their customers and also sell self-designed lighters. These amazing women graced us with their presence that day and we couldn’t be more honored!
The visitors of the fair purchased several products from female entrepreneurs and also had the chance to have one-on-one conversations with them. Ten percent of the profits from the stalls went to the funds that were raised for Project Ramadan 7.0 - a philanthropic project done annually by YES alumni in Bangladesh to give donations to underprivileged families in various locations of Dhaka. That project occurs during the last week of Ramadan, so that the families may celebrate Eid with a happy cheer.
At the end of the day, we had a story telling session moderated by Khadija H. Mohamud, the Assistant for Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka. There were seven guests in the panel who were all women from different backgrounds and professions. We had an activist, a businesswoman, a journalist, a professor, a diplomat, a development professional, and a teacher. They all shared their thoughtful and intimate journeys as women. The audience was moved by their stories and reflected on their thoughts and opinions. The session also raised awareness about the hardship women have to face in society and how they fight to overcome it.
My favorite part of this project was having all these empowering ladies under one roof that day. I was not only inspired by them, but they also made me realize how strong and powerful we women can be. We were more than honored that they chose our platform to share their admirable work.