Many Bangladeshi women are without opportunity to realize their potential and experience freedom from poverty. Silenced by harmful perceptions of gender inequality and denied the right to a full education, these women are denied the option of contributing to their families and communities. Food for the Hungry’s Women of Action program seeks to provide these women with hope for change through learning and savings groups. Through participation in such groups, women discover an escape route from poverty and the means to create a better future.
Women of Action groups meet regularly to learn about savings, stewardship, legal rights, parenting and health. Previously overlooked, illiterate women become small business owners and influential community leaders. Lifting themselves and their children out of poverty, these women become the hope for the future.
Heidi Hatch, Women of Action’s Field Liaison for Global Engagement, shares with us two women’s stories of transformation through the learning and savings groups.
Peyara Begum lost her straw house three times in two years due to flooding. Often, she and her family went hungry and even became sick from drinking river water. Peyara also felt helpless and cheated by people who made her work hard and paid her little money.
When she first joined a learning and savings group, Peyara felt ashamed that she couldn’t read. She felt unsure that she had anything to offer to the group. The group’s leader welcomed her and encouraged her to participate in discussions. In the months that followed, with a loan from her group, Peyara turned her vulnerable situation around. Today, Peyara is a leader in her village and is trusted by her neighbors with managing a large group savings fund. She can write, read and calculate accounts.
Now her family lives in a tin house, drinks water from a tube well, uses a sanitary latrine and receives a stable income through keeping livestock. Peyara is one of thousands of participants in our learning and savings groups. These women are transforming their communities daily, as they help one another out of poverty and injustice.
Jyotsna began her married life in the low-caste Hindu community of Wari. With her husband’s low wage and a newly born daughter to feed, Jyostna was forced to turn to a local moneylender. She took a loan with an exorbitant interest rate, which trapped her in a cycle of debt.
Jyotsna, struggling to get by, heard about our learning and savings groups meeting in her community. She soon became a member and started saving a little money each week.
Always keen to learn, Jyotsna loved meeting with her group and learning how to apply new knowledge and skills to her life. Eventually, she increased her family’s income by using her newly acquired tailoring skills. By carefully managing their finances, Jyotsna and her husband used this valuable extra income to break free from their crippling debt. Inspired by Food for the Hungry’s values, Jyotsna decided to train as an adult literacy teacher. Now qualified, she encourages and helps other disadvantaged women.
“No one will be able to take away the knowledge and education that Food for the Hungry provided me,” she said.
To find out more information or donate to this program, visit Food For The Hungry’s Women of Action Program’s website.