'Want to work for poverty eradication, women's empowerment'

Sharmin Akhter— the first ever woman graduate in her family—had to overcome many barriers to achieve her Bachelor's degree from Asian University for Women (AUW) in Chattogram.

Now, she is working for the Mai Soli Foundation after completing an internship at Grameen Bank. Sharmin received scholarships from AUW and Prothom Alo Trust at an undergraduate level. The indomitable woman appeared on an online event of Prothom Alo Trust titled ‘Aditiya’ to narrate her life struggle.

The programme—conducted by Mahbuba Sultana, coordinator of Prothom Alo Trust—ran simultaneously on Prothom Alo’s Facebook page and YouTube channel along with the Facebook page of Prothom Alo Trust on 22 April at 3:30pm.

Sharmin said “I had a wish to study at university after the higher secondary level. But it was not so easy for me due to some social constraints. I knew about AUW from my mother. Later, took the admission test [of AUW] and passed.”

“There are students from around 20 countries in AUW. So firstly I had to struggle to cope with the campus atmosphere since I studied in Bangla medium up to Class XII. Later, special training of AUW in English language helped me immensely to close the gap”, she added.

Her family’s first woman graduate, Sharmin said she has learned many things, exchanging culture with foreign students in the events usually held each week on campus.

“I was nervous at the beginning. But the more I engaged with them, the more I learned from them. Now I am applying these skills to my professional life. The university has helped me be the self-reliant woman I dreamt of being since my childhood. Along with providing opportunities for developmental work, the university has taught us how to adapt to different situations,” Sharmin said.

“Grameen Bank works on women empowerment while Mai Soli Foundation on child marriage. Since I have studied development studies at an undergrad level, I am enjoying this,” she said.

Talking about her big dream, Sharmin said she want to stay beside the people.

“I will try to go abroad for my Master’s degree. Then I want to work to empower women and eradicate poverty back home,” she determined.

Remembering her mother’s contribution in her life, she said her father passed away when she was in Class X. Then her mother and brother helped her to move ahead.

“I couldn’t reach the where I am today without my mother’s help. She used to say, "You are not a girl; you are a human being. You have to survive. You should try to learn how to achieve.”

Now, Sharmin is capable of making family decisions which she couldn’t before.

She said to other meritorious ‘Adamya Medhabi’ [indomitable talent], "Never give up. You all have your own tale that will guide you down the road. Apart from this, there is Asian University for Women and the Prothom Alo Trust to help you. Eventually, your dreams will come true.”

Prothom Alo Trust has been awarding the 'First Female in the Family’ scholarship since 2012. With the help of Transcom Group, 42 students received the scholarship as of 2016.

In 2017, IDLC Finance Limited took over this scholarship and named it ‘Aditiya’. Since then a total of 78 students have received scholarship.

*The original report appeared in the online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by NH Sajjad