We already passed $200,000 for Heifer International!

Well that was fast! Thank you so much to everyone who donated to our 2019 Fundraiser for Heifer International–we passed $200,000, which means Heifer has a solid start on their Inclusive Markets for Women Farmers in Bangladesh program!

With this money, Heifer can start training the thousands of volunteers in Bangladesh. At this stage, project participants are selected and education begins with training in Heifer’s foundational 12 Cornerstones for just and sustainable development and improved agricultural production. This includes helping participants develop their own plan for success and analyze how best to accomplish their goals, as well as more nuts-and-bolts training for how to get the most out of farmland, how to raise and care for livestock, and how to start and run businesses and community co-operatives.

Farida Begum with one of her goats. Photo by Heifer International.

This was where, like every Heifer participant, Farida Begum (pictured above) started. Farida, her husband, and three kids live in Matikata, Bangladesh. She grew up in extreme poverty and was forced to marry when she was 12 years old. Her husband worked in labor, but they often had to split one meal into two because of the food crisis. Feeding the family was difficult and they only ate fish once or twice a month. Her two oldest children stopped attending school to assist with family expenses.

The stress of extreme poverty led to recurring fights between Farida and her husband. Their children were often sick with fevers and colds. But then Farida learned about the Heifer project from the Bulbuli Self-Help Group in a neighboring village – the first self-help group within this project. Farida joined and began actively participating in weekly group meetings and regularly deposited 30 cents of her savings into a group savings account. She has deposited $17.50 into savings so far.

Farida became a member of the Apel Self-Help Group within her community. She received training in Heifer’s 12 Cornerstones and improved animal management, along with $50 to purchase a doe.

Renuka Begum with her cows. Photo by Heifer International.

Meanwhile, 147 miles away, Mst. Renuka Begum, 48, lives in Barogachi-Karigorpara village under Paba sub-district of Rajshahi district. Due to her family’s extreme poverty, she did not have the opportunity to attend school. She married at 14 yet divorced immediately afterward. Then, she married again seven years later. Since they were not financially solvent, they migrated to Barogachi village where her husband began working as a painter.

When WAVE Foundation began implementing a Heifer project in Barogachi village and formed a self-help group named Protishruti, which means “commitment” in English. Renuka was selected as president of the group of 25 members and received 12 Cornerstones training, including Improved Animal Management. They also started savings of BDT 10, or about 8 cents USD, per week. Renuka soon got involved in income-generating activities and became financially solvent.

We will follow both Farida and Renuka as they participate in Heifer’s program, and we’ll let you know how each small step can bring vast improvement to their lives, the lives of their families, and the success of their communities. Stay tuned!

Special thanks to Heifer International for letting us share Farida and Renuka’s stories with you!

The “Begum” Honorific

Farida and Renuka aren’t related. In areas of rural Bangladesh, Muslim women take the last name Begum once they’re married. It’s traditionally an honorific title for highly respected Muslim women. The word comes from Turkish and Urdu words meaning “princess” or “high-ranking official.” Begum is also used in Muslim communities in India and Pakistan.