From where I stand: “Showing respect for the diversity of religion and caste in our community is the secret to being in harmony”

Kohinoor Begum, 47, is a member of Polli Shomaj, a community-based women’s group that discusses how to prevent violent extremism and resolve local disputes together with other members of the community.

Date: Thursday, June 6, 2019

Kohinoor Begum, 47, is a member of Polli Shomaj, a community-based women’s group that discusses how to prevent violent extremism and resolve local disputes together with other members of the community. Photo: UN Women/Tasfiq Mahmood
Kohinoor Begum, 47, is a member of Polli Shomaj, a community-based women’s group that discusses how to prevent violent extremism and resolve local disputes together with other members of the community. Photo: UN Women/Tasfiq Mahmood

“My husband left me when I was pregnant with our only daughter, so I had to come back to my parents’ house. Since that day, I went through endless struggles to support my parents and daughter. I worked for long hours in multiple jobs such as tailoring, which my father had taught me to do.

However, I managed to provide educational expenses for my daughter to pass her bachelor’s examination. I still have my tailoring job and now make 4000 BDT [48 USD] each month working on orders for my neighbours.


“I can proudly say that people in my community are in harmony and solve their problems together.”


For more than 12 years, I have been involved in the Polli Shomaj programme. Over the years, I became involved in various collective efforts to stop early marriage, domestic violence, and to support community members, such as widows and the disabled, in obtaining government allowances. Leadership trainings helped me realize my own worth and the possible changes I could make in my life and in the life of others.

I started disseminating that information to other women in my community and tried to empower them by making them aware of their rights and the role they can play in building peaceful communities.

The leadership training helped me learn how to reduce social tension and live cohesively with others regardless of their religion, caste, gender or ethnicity. It has also enabled me to lead a group of Polli Shomaj women to organize the first community fair, a joint initiative representing a symbol of social harmony in our community.

I can proudly say that people in my community are in harmony and solve their problems together. While organizing and executing this fair, I realized that it has brought them even closer while discussing everyday challenges, including communal tensions or conflict that might affect our cohesion.

Showing respect for the diversity of religion and caste in our community is the secret to being in harmony.”

SDG 5: Gender equality SDG 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions

Kohinoor Begum is from Joypurhat District in Bangladesh, where violent extremism has troubled the community in the past. Her group’s efforts are supported by UN Women’s partner, BRAC, a Bangladesh-based NGO. Through the Empowered Women, Peaceful Communities programme, BRAC and UN Women support 85 community action groups in six districts (Dinajpur, Joypurhat, Moulobhi Bazar, Cox’s Bazar, Jessore and Satkhira) and facilitate trainings on preventing violent extremism, targeting at-risk communities. Kohinoor’s story highlights efforts to achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16, which aims to promote peaceful and inclusive societies, and SDG 5 on gender equality and women’s empowerment.