From where I stand: “Women are a part of society, and they can accomplish anything”Sarothi Rani Saha, 46, is the Executive Director of Social Equality for Effective Development (SEED), a local NGO based in the district of Rangpur, Bangladesh.
“In Bangladesh, I see issues like violent extremism, repression of women, and radicalism taking place more and more. This is why I work on the topic of women, peace and security with my NGO, SEED.
Our activities in the community include a courtyard meeting with women’s groups. We discuss different issues. For example, today I will discuss sexual harassment and rising intolerance of different religions. If the community members come to me with a problem, I link them with law enforcement.
How do you bring them into the discussion? [..] I try to use those leaders as local catalysts to help create change and get the community on board.
I have had to face some challenges in my work. When I started to discuss sensitive issues in the community, some people did not take it positively. As these issues are linked to religion, some people became stiff and did not want to talk about it. How do you bring them into the discussion? Some leaders are not open to hearing what we have to say. But others are open; they listen and come to different workshops and seminars. I try to use those leaders as local catalysts to help create change and get the community on board.
Initially, I also faced problems being a woman. At that time, so many women were not working, and it was unusual to see a woman working the way I was. But, women can work; they are human beings! When I went to the community, many people would gather around and watch our meetings but not participate. But they got to know me and eventually accepted me.
What drives me the most in doing my work with SEED is a commitment within myself to do something for women. I want to convey the message that women are a part of society, and they can accomplish anything. If women can make decisions at home and manage their households, they have the capacity and capability to make decisions everywhere.”
Sarothi Rani Saha is the Executive Director of SEED, one of 21 community-based NGOs and groups that UN Women has convened in Bangladesh to form a network on women, peace and security as part of its programme on preventing violent extremism across Asia and the Pacific, generously funded by the Government of Japan. Saha’s efforts contribute to achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5, on gender equality and empowering all women and girls, and SDG 16, which aims to promote peaceful and inclusive societies.