Marjana Begum: inspiring women’s empowerment in Suilpur
31-year-old Marjana runs and owns the Aijitro Mudir Dokaan in Suilpur, Srimangal. She had dedicated much of her life in learning and honing different skills, in the interests of serving her family, and her community. Marjana is, amongst many other things, a businesswoman, a vaccinator, a midwife, and the mother of three children.
Marjana had been running a small shop selling lozenges and crisps for four years before the Suchana team commenced interventions in her area. She dreamt of expanding her shop to save money for her children’s education ever since she started her business, but didn’t know how she would manage to realise this dream. Her husband is a fisherman, and supports his wife in all her endeavours in whatever way that he can.
Rahima, a Suchana consortium partner CNRS field staff, visited Marjana in 2017, to analyse the nutritional patterns, and sustainability of programmatic interventions if Marjana was selected to participate in the programme. Marjana was eager to learn ways in which she could improve the nutritional intake of her own family as well as her community at the same time, and was keen to use Suchana’s investment to expand her own business.
Marjana had also suffered from a difficult pregnancy when she had her first child. As a result of this, the child was also undernourished and suffered from a series of complications that persists to this day.
As a practising midwife, she was keenly aware of the need for greater education and access to proper nutrition for her community at Suilpur, and the programme promised her ways in which she could do so.
As part of her training in nutrition, Marjana learnt of the health benefits of consuming eggs and free range chicken. She noticed that the mortality rates of chicken in her area were very high, resulting in preventable financial losses. In her bid to improve the lives of residents of Suilpur, Marjana expressed her interest in receiving training to become a certified vaccinator.
With Suchana’s financial support and business training, Marjana started investing in a wider range of products for her shop in 2017. She started storing items in-demand by members of her community, and is expanding her product range daily. A sharp businesswoman, Marjana listens to the needs and feedback of customers, and organises her shelves accordingly.
This was evident in her decision to invest in a refrigerator. Marjana noticed the need for her customers to travel long distances in order to purchase cold beverages, and decided to invest her savings of BDT 8,000 in the purchase of a fridge. She had just finished paying off the instalments, and is certain that this was a smart business decision from her. While her customers can’t always pay her in cash, or immediately, Marjana is happy to have them pay in kind or over time.
In her bid to ensure excellent customer service, Marjana also supports her community with information from the FFWC.
She understands the importance of having adequate savings in operating a business, and saves a percentage of the shop’s profits on a weekly basis. She also saves all her earnings as a vaccinator. Marjana is also an active member of the Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) initiated by Suchana in her community. The VSLA invests money contributed by each member, and divvies up the interest to the members. Marjana, however, is not a recipient of these returns on investment.
She adheres to strict Islamic guidelines which does not permit the concept of interests. She is however, happy to contribute her weekly amount to the group, mindful of the need to prepare for a rainy day.
Marjana is determined to expand the provision of her services to her community. When she heard of the immense financial losses incurred on her community through the preventable deaths of their poultry, she asked Suchana for an opportunity to train as a vaccinator.
Suchana Graduation Approach Households with women and adolescent girls of reproductive age When she started practising, Marjana faced some backlash from the community who were reluctant to spend the minimal BDT 2 to BDT 15 in vaccinating their poultry.
Other beneficiaries in the community led the way, however, and having witnessed a decrease in the mortality of their poultry, other members of the community sought out Marjana’s vaccination services.
Marjana is now called away for day trips to vaccinate poultry in her community, and leaves the management of her shop in the very capable hands of her daughter.
Marjana is also a midwife for the women in Suilpur. She sought training from her mother-in-law who was a midwife herself, following the very difficult birthing process of her first child. Marjana is a trusted midwife for the women in her community now, and a valuable resource for the doctors in the Upazilla.
Marjana wants to continue serving her family as best she can, and keep saving for her children’s education. She is hopeful that her daughter will be able to enter nursing school in the future, and continue to serve her community as her mother does.
Suchana: Ending the cycle of undernutrition in Bangladesh is a multisectoral nutrition programme which aims to reduce chronic undernutrition leading to stunting among children under two years of age in 235,500 poor and very poor households in the Sylhet and Moulvibazar districts of Bangladesh.
The programme adopts an integrated approach to nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive interventions and generates a sustainable and replicable model that can be scaled. Suchana is funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) and the EU, and is implemented by a consortium of 8 different development organisations and research agencies: Center for Natural Resource Studies (CNRS), Friends in Village Development Bangladesh (FIVDB), Helen Keller International, icddr,b, iDE, Rangpur Dinajpur Rural Service (RDRS), Save the Children, and WorldFish.
The consortium is led by Save the Children.