There are two versions of this post today. You can read one or the other or both. They are complementary though cover the same ground. This one looks at this project from the Bangladesh side of things. The other, on my writing blog WriteOutLoud looks at the project from the angle of the e-book I’m about to bring out. You can read that post here.
I have about four books on the go, all very close to being ready to publish. These have been set aside, temporarily, to put together a book which I hope will raise money for a special lady in my life.
Let me introduce you to Ria.
Ria Mollick is a young woman I’ve had the pleasure of knowing for more than seven years. I taught her while living in Bangladesh and her family and mine are very close friends. Ria has worked hard through the English system of education in Bangladesh which meant two years living away from her family in the scary capital city, Dhaka, from 16-18-years-old.
Ria has received an unconditional offer from a British university to study Business. She really wants to train in business to an international standard and then come back to Bangladesh to help make a difference for women there. Her family work for the charity LAMB which is the NGO where my family and I worked until recently and Ria’s whole life has been about helping poor, disadvantaged people.
Although Bangladesh legally gives equality to both sexes, the reality for the majority is very different. I have female friends there who receive death threats because they foolishly believe they are equal to men. I know teenage girls who are molested as they walk to school and told they must leave school immediately and stay at home. Getting a degree at university can be a real challenge.
One Bangladeshi friend of mine now in Britain tells me that even though it isn’t cheap to come to the UK to study, by the time his degree was put off by hartals and other political action – so that it took several years longer than planned to finish it – he had paid pretty much the same amount of money. Now he’s in the UK and his qualifications are ignored. Unlike UK, American or European degrees, Asian ones are still frowned on, rightly or wrongly, and dismissed by many employers.
Ria and her family have always worked with the poor and disadvantaged in Bangladesh. Her parents work for LAMB but if she has to take a degree in Dhaka, they may well have to leave to live with her to keep her safe. There’s precious little security for young girls in this male-dominated society.
When the Rana Plaza collapsed last year, the world of female garment workers came to global attention when some of us had been shouting about it for years. The conditions faced by garment working girls are not unique to that industry however. Ria wants to study business so she can go back to Bangladesh and help empower women in a country which so badly needs just that. I’ve been impressed by just how hard this young woman has worked – especially for the last two years where her Dhaka school couldn’t even provide a teacher for one of her A levels and she had to teach herself! She did so with success and it has been wonderful to see that Lancaster University has recognised this effort, giving her an unconditional offer within hours of applying.
But coming to the UK is very expensive for foreigners and Ria can’t apply for visas until she has proof of the whole of the first year’s fees being covered. Her family are not wealthy and already support an older daughter. I’m doing three things to try and help:
- My family and I have promised to let Ria live with us for three years as part of our family so she has no housing or food costs.
- I have set up a page with GoFundMe to raise money for Ria to cover her fees.
- I have decided to produce my first book – called ‘Sonali’ – and give all profits to the fund. The book is a collection of photographs with short accompanying texts about life in rural Bangladesh where Ria comes from.
- I will add a thank you in the book to all who donate before the publication date at GoFundMe and send a free copy to all sponsors.
The book, Sonali, is filled with many semi-black and white pictures taken from Northwest Bangladesh in the area surrounding LAMB where Ria lives with her parents. Although other books are in the pipeline, this one would be my first photo-memoirs and we’re hoping an app for it will come soon and perhaps and print version too. For now, I’m pleased my first e-book will help finance another person’s dream to help others.
I can’t do this all alone so this is what you can do to help:
- Share, reblog, tweet or otherwise let people know about this blog post or the one on Kenthinksaloud.
- Go look at the GoFundMe page (click on the hyperlink to go there) and, again, share and tweet about it to your friends.
- Tell businesses you know who might be looking for places where they can give charity donations. Donating here is really a small investment in business enterprise for women in Bangladesh. It’s small, but really will make a significant difference for many in years to come.
- Donate to the fund! Even just $5 from everyone who reads my two blogs would get us much of the way there. That may not seem much when we need thousands but it will encourage others to begin contributing too. The fund is brand new and we have a few promises of larger amounts coming soon but now is a good time to get the ball rolling. You can donate without anyone seeing your name if you wish and you can give more than once if you want to give a little now but maybe give some more later. There is an option to keep your name hidden publicly if you don’t like your charitable giving to be seen. I will know privately as administrator but even Ria won’t know if you choose to remain anonymous.
So help a Bangladeshi girl begin her dream of helping impoverished women in her country and help me produce my first book for a good cause – and get a copy for free! We need as much of the funds in by the end of April so Ria can begin applying for visas soon after and join us in Cumbria in time to begin her course in September.
Thanks for helping.
Click here – GoFundMe – look at the site and help Ria.