Becoming a symbol of female empowerment in Bangladesh
After growing up in Saudi Arabia, Farhana moved to Bangladesh as a young woman and was instantly inspired by the launch of the Award there. Although she suffers from auto immune disease, Crohn’s, it hasn’t stopped her from excelling with the Award and achieving success as a symbol of female empowerment across Bangladesh.
This is her story:
"When the Award was launched in Bangladesh, we were told all about the many opportunities it offered and the idea of travelling across the country, experiencing activities that challenged my self-esteem and strength appealed to the winner in me and instantly motivated me to sign up.
For my Skills section, I created a drug awareness programme amongst people in rehabilitation centres acting as a counsellor for struggling patients, working hard to erase the term “drug addict” and the negative perceptions it has both for them and for those around them. At first, it was very difficult to communicate with them and give them hope, however, with time and support from staff members, I began to build relationships with those I was working to support which was hugely rewarding.
The Service section of the Award was something I became really passionate about, volunteering at a retirement home and working hard to generate a ray of hope amongst people who felt alone and isolated. They shared stories from their lives with me and I felt so happy just to be available to listen to them. I could see clearly how having company improved the environment overall and that, clearly, it was not just me who was benefitting from the Award but them as well. As the days passed, I also realised these ladies spoke more confidently about themselves and the home appeared to be a happier place.
I suffer from a rare inflammatory disease called the Crohn's Disease and during the same time, I was mistreated in a renowned hospital in Dhaka, Bangladesh for nine months which caused me to stop eating, losing around 15 kgs. The auto immune disease also created a lot of complications for which I was hospitalised for 21 days straight as the doctors here gave up and thought I wouldn't survive since my body stopped producing blood. I was even emergency transfered to Singapore, in a wheelchair with special aircraft assistance.
Singapore was where I started to feel hope again. After 19 days of initial treatment, I came back to Bangladesh, back on my feet, surprising every doctor who thought I wouldn't make it. During this whole ordeal, the people in the retirement home told me they did special prayers day and night - I believe it’s those prayers that mean I’m here today.
Growing up, I was inspired by my Dad, who is an automobile engineer to follow in his footsteps or to become a computer engineer. I managed to achieve this goal and become a computer engineer, but due to my complicated illness, I wasn’t able to continue working in this field. However, due to my connections from the Award, I now hold a full-time volunteer position at the retirement home where I carried out my Service. As well as this, I am employed as a research assistant working for the betterment of women in our country which also afforded me the opportunity to represent Bangladesh in the Commonwealth development Programme for Female Entrepreneurs in India. I create content and blogs based on our research which is published and distributed worldwide.
Looking back at my journey so far, I remember being such a shy little girl, but the Award helped me to grow into an independent strong individual who knows how to voice her opinions and take a stand for what’s right or what’s wrong. I have gained so much strength and even now when I have to travel to Singapore for my treatment, I do not mind travelling alone.
Young people are the future of tomorrow. It is vital to explore your potential and make use of it. To the young people of today: if you want to discover yourself or change something for yourself or the world, then the Award is for you! It is the starting point of success and you will be rewarded in ways you never thought existed. Go for it!"