Eleventh grader Mahua Akhtar, from Shyampur in the outskirts of Dhaka, took over as the head of International Finance Corporation’s Dhaka office for a day.
In the morning on 4 October, she entered the room of IFC country manager Wendy Werner who congratulated her and left her seat. Mahua was introduced with a number of activities run by the organisation.
"Can money be deposited with this [financial] organisation, as we do with the bank?” an innocent Mahua asked the IFC ‘colleagues’ of the day.
It was, in fact, an arrangement to allow the 16-year-old girl to lead such an organisation which deals with matters of financial and technical nature.
"I never thought of getting such an opportunity,” said a jubilant Mahua. She also admitted, “I was a bit nervous. However, after a few hours, I was OK.”
Wendy Werner tried to help Mahua feel comfortable. “Once I was a girl like you. I am holding this position today and you will also be able to do so,” Werner told Mahua.
IFC’s programme assistant Nadia Islam was happy to see a young girl leading their organisation. “It’s an innovative idea. Others will feel encouraged.”
Non-government organisation Plan International made the arrangement for Mahua to hold the IFC position for a day to mark International Day of the Girl on 11 October 2018.
This programme is called ‘Girls Takeover’, a symbolic one that Plan International has been organising since 2016.
"A girl learns how to dream and how the level of her confidence increases. She learns how to lead an organisation. This opportunity would be beneficial to her, when she joins a profession,” Plan’s communications specialist Alim Bari said of the programme.
More than 1,000 girls join such programmes run in 60 countries, he added.
Mahua worked with the child protection team of Plan International. She shared her experience of stopping child marriage, with Wendy Werner who then encouraged her to continue her works.
The day Mahua joined the IFC, the country manager was due to visit a hotel where the financial organisation has investment. The acting country manager, Mahua, paid a visit there as scheduled.
Asked how she felt while discharging the duties at IFC, Mahua said, “My self-confidence has increased and I will share my experience with my friends. Any one of us can hold such position,” Mahua added.
*This report, originally published in Prothom Alo Bangla online edition, has been rewritten in English by Rabiul Islam.