Turning passion into profession
Sanzeeda Munir, an intern at BRAC Communications
Going to work for the last three months meant being surrounded by blooming morning glories and green creepers. BRAC’s headquarters is in the heart of the capital, Dhaka, but it’s making waves in thousands of lives across Bangladesh and 10 other countries.
I consider myself fortunate to have had the opportunity to see BRAC’s impact up close during my brief internship. I had the chance to visit Dhamrai in Dhaka division to see one of its largest programmes – microfinance. Dabi is one of the products offered by the programme. The name directly translates to ‘right’ or ‘demand’ in Bangla, symbolising access to financial services as a basic human right, irrespective of an individual’s social standing. Dabi loans help low-income women to buy productive assets, invest in business or property, smooth consumption, and manage shocks while promoting women’s empowerment in local communities.
My day began on an early morning in mid-June with four other interns. We were warmly welcomed by delicious parathas and dal cooked by a staff at the branch office in Dhamrai. The lovely Nusrat apa was our guide throughout our trip, giving us all the details of the programmes.
Getting to know BRAC’s microfinance programme felt like a golden opportunity. It has reached an astonishing number of lives, at an immense scale not only in Bangladesh but seven other countries. We got to know about how clients form village organisations (VOs) and the rules which are to be followed. There must be at least 15-25 clients in one VO, with a membership cost of BDT 30. We met many members of a VO – Shilpi apa, with a rickshaw business of her own; Anjali didi with her firewood venture; Khadiza apa who has her own nursery – all successful entrepreneurs, and all part of BRAC’s village organisation.
Savers can also avail services such as DPS (deposit premium scheme), general savings, or monthly profit scheme. The programme made it seem like paving the way to a prosperous future was almost simple. The June heat was unbearable, but the clients and their inspiring stories kept us going.
One of the clients, the strong-willed Mumu apa got to know about the microfinance programme through word of mouth. She started her own cattle farm by taking a microloan a few years back, and has never looked back since. “I began with two cows, and initially I was selling milk. Then I started taking bigger loans. Today, I have 60 cows in my farm.”
“Imagine you are selling plants. You are essentially saving the world!” smiled Khadiza apa as she told us about her nursery.
“I watched my business grow, and it began with some lily seeds. Today I have a collection of cacti which is hard to beat. There was a mealybug infestation in the nursery back in January. All my plants died as a result, and I had to start from scratch. But BRAC was by my side throughout the entire time.”
There is beauty in these women’s vigour and passion, and the way they charge forward, ready to face any hurdle. BRAC plays a role in their lives by empowering them economically, helping them invest in and grow their businesses, come what may. The rest of the success comes from the determination of the clients themselves.
I can certainly say that my time during this internship has been successfully spent. From the field-level to the head office, BRAC is working to change lives, and I have been fortunate to have held witness to it.