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Brotee’s starting point

Bangladesh was born a secular nation based on the ethos of democracy and socialism. It had a secularist framework that did not reject religion, rather it gave an equal space to every religion with the promise that none shall be allowed to use religion for political ends. Bangladesh failed to live up to such foundational character as, over the past fifty years, following two subsequent military dictatorships, the political actors kept undermining the processes of democracy through the abuse of power. Bangladesh emerged out of the Bengali speaking people’s struggle for a separate cultural and social identity based on Bengali nationalism. Hence, a Bengali state was a natural consequence. This synthesis of a nation based on the thesis of cultural and linguistic unity, gave birth to a new antithesis – the marginalised ‘ethnic minority’ communities, besides the continued alienation of the poor. Other cultures as deeply rooted in the soil of Bengal as the Bengali culture, were being left out in the cold. Bangladesh unwittingly recreated and continued the politics of ‘class exploitation’ ‘marginalisation’ and ‘impunity of the majority’. A vision of an inclusive, participatory democracy was replaced by a ‘dictatorship of the majority’, thereby disempowering and depriving a large segment of our people, alienating them from growing together with the mainstream and in turn making them extremely vulnerable. Thus, poverty and alienation are not just a class and gender issue but a cultural and ethnic issue as well. The increased political marginalisation and deepening of divisions between the rich and the poor as well as the ethnic and religious groups, which is a result of callous state policies and narrow political views, has turned Bangladesh into an oligarchy, a nation for the vested few, leaving a vast majority in limbo. While there are some people who continue to live with prejudice and intolerance, there are far many more live as one people, in natural acceptance of their ‘different’ neighbours, with love and compassion, unaware of the politics of ‘separation’. It is this ‘separation from the Source’ that keeps us unhappy and in pain, to quote Rumi.

Noorjehan Murshid (1925-2002)

The spirit behind Brotee

Noorjehan Murshid , born Noorjehan Beg in Taranagar, Murshidabad, on 22 May 1925, rose to prominence as a political-social figure because of her commitment to the empowerment of women. She was an educationist, a social reformer, a social thinker deeply liberal and secular in her worldview.  Noorjehan was one of the leading women in politics in post-partition East Bengal, which became Pakistan and later Bangladesh in 1971, who dared to breach the purdah and ventured outside to mould a public life. She became an elected member of the national assembly in the 1954and became part of the Jukto Front Government. With Noorjehan Murshid and four other women in the Pakistan Parliament, women's participation in politics in this country witnessed its beginning. Noorjehan was carrying the legacies of her predecessors, some of the greatest women of South Asia, Begum Rokeya (feminist philosopher and educationist), Ila Mitra and Sarala Devi. During the Tebagha movement, these Bengali revolutionary leaders organised the farmers of the region in support of land reform. Like many from her generation, Noorjahan was deeply secular, influenced by the sociopolitical ideals linked to the Bengal Renaissance and Rammohohan Ray's Brahma Samaj. It was no wonder that while she was a student in Kolkata Unniversity, she with her friends, Shahidullah Kaiser and Rokeya Kabir sailed to Nachol to join Sarala Devi during the Tebagha movement in 1946.

It is no wonder, that she, as a political activist, joined the Mujibnagar government to liberate Bangladesh from the clutches of Pakistan in 1971, for which she was tried in absentia and sentenced to 14 years rigorous imprisonment by the Pakistan junta.Back in 1949, young Noorjehan Murshid broke a major social taboo by becoming the first woman to perform on stage opposite men. She was the first Muslim woman officer in Indian radio and also in Pakistani radio later. She was also the first women minister in Mujib's cabinet in independent Bangladesh. So, it was no wonder that she was instrumental in spearheading many progressive social organisations. She was the first President of the Bangladesh Mahila Samity, the founder President of Azimpur Ladies Club, the founder of Agrani Balika Bidyalay, a founder member of Birdem Diabetic Clinic, a mentor to people who formed Ain-O-Shalish Kendra, besides playing a crucial role in the formation of Brotee. She was also the founder of Sreyoshi, a club for the wives of the Dhaka University teachers. Noorjehan Murshid was the first light bearer of hope whose legacy inspired the birth of Brotee, a civil society organisation dedicated to human rights and social justice. She has been, and still is, an inspiration for all who work to ensure social transformation at all levels – from the grassroots to the highest echelon of the government.

GKG-HRP: A potential for paradigm shift

Gonokriya Gobeshona or GKG-HRP reaches resource to the unreached, it breaks the barriers of traditional leadership monopoly by creating a new generation of young leaders who learn to use participatory village structures and processes and work as human rights vanguards. They are ultrapoor, adibasis, women and youths. Impact of GKG at a glance Since inception, 8,050 (4,025 girls) youth leaders have been trained in GKG to defend HR who form each Gonokriya Gobeshok Dal or GGD; at present 2,860 GGDs (1,430 girls) – young vanguards are active in 260 villages; of these 791 are young adibasi vanguards. There are nearly 50 markers of change in a village when GKG successfully initiated. In all cases, achievement levels are higher than national averages. Following are a few statistics:
 120 villages are 100% child marriage free . In the rest 140, nearly 80% reduction due to Covid.
1. Zero school dropout villages
2. 38 schools for marginal children run by GGD volunteers
3 Brings 802 children back to school
4 95 villages are 'tipshoi mukto', fully literate
5 120 zero dowry villages
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