1990: SUS NGO status is ratified

Margit Palokangas, in the middle of the picture, beside Begum Rokeya with an umbrella, brought a donation to SUS that made it possible to buy some land.  Photo: Manfred Stüber

From 1988 to 1990: Land purchased to build offices

So  many organizations, and donations from private persons helped lay the ground for SUS to buy land, build offices and gain NGO status with the right to receive foreign funding.

1988 started in a haphazard way. I had a new job at the school and SUS was newborn. Nevertheless, so many people and organizations contributed, inspiring my mind and heart.

Margit Palokangas, my good friend from my first Finnish work-camp, brought the first donation collected for SUS from abroad, by pupils from Helsinki Steiner School in Finland on the initiative of my beloved friend Ritta Seppanen, a teacher at that Steiner school. Some money came that year too from the Feminist Health Centre in West Berlin at the initiative of Maria Schluch. With these donations and my own little savings, we could buy a plot of land in the village of Malni outside Netrakona to build an office for SUS.

NORAD in Dhaka offered to help build the SUS office and resource center. Elisabeth Eie, a friend of mine became coordinator of development affairs at the Norwegian Embassy in Dhaka, Bangladesh. I had met her in Oslo at my work-camp there in 1986. She invited me to meet her when she came to Bangladesh. However, to my shame I was rather ignorant and not capable of travelling alone to visit the Norwegian Embassy in Dhaka. I am grateful to Elisabeth who soon after her arrival to Bangladesh contacted me regularly. She even paid a visit to Netrakona to see how we were doing. After that visit, she realized my limited knowledge of NGO-work, but she appreciated my spirit and willingness and extended her cordial support. She recommended us to buy a piece of land for our future building. We registered our land and received a letter of intent from NORAD in 1988 for construction of our office and resource center.

To receive NORAD support after buying the land it was necessary to submit specific application forms along with approved designs and construction cost-analysis including a budget for the office and resource center. We were completely inexperienced with such work. Luckily, the municipal engineer Mr. Luthfor Rahman extended his cooperation and prepared the design and construction cost including budget. The Mayor Motiur Rahman Khan from Netrakona Municipality had it approved .

Olof Meurling helped by completing the NORAD application forms and preparing relevant papers about the organization which were needed to be submitted together with  the application. Back then, Olof visited Bangladesh every second year and gave his enthusiastic support. I still remember how we had no typewriter to type the application form. I used the old and broken typewriter from my school, but it had no ribbon. Poor Olof worked in bad light and typed with a carbon-paper to make a readable copy. Then we submitted two applications respectively. One for NORAD at the Royal Norwegian Embassy for the construction of SUS office and resource centre and one for SIDA at the Swedish Embassy for a one-time donation. A Muslim woman from Srilanka,  Shirin Persson, working together with her husband at the Swedish Embassy , received the application. It later lead to SIDA support of taka 47500.

The same year, Bangladesh small scale cottage industries (BISIC) was offering training facilities to small clubs and rural organizations around the country in order to develop handicrafts skills for women. I saw an advertisement in a daily newspaper, which inspired me to apply for training. I submitted an application for their cooperation. This brought an excellent result unexpectedly. The training branch of BISIC accepted the application and provided SUS six months training free of cost for 40 women. This included training on batik printing, bamboo and cane work, tailoring and knitting cotton socks. 10 women received training in each sector. As we had no space and our center was not ready yet, we rented  a large room close to my house for these training courses.

My cordial thanks go to all friends and well-wishers in Europe who, in the initial stage of SUS, provided donations equivalent to 35000 Euro at today’s rate. The donations came from individuals and organizations from Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and West Berlin. This seed money helped us to keep running our work until we received registration from the NGO affairs bureau for receiving foreign donations regularly. This interim support from my friends was priceless. It removed my economic worries and helped SUS to survive and gain experience in how to liberate oppressed women .

My elder son-in-law Syed Rukon Uddin being a development worker at that time helped me to receive the registration from the NGO affairs bureau. To receive this registration requires so many bureaucratic processes, which I had no ability to manage at that time. The NGO affairs bureau is a government body controlling NGOs, which are receiving foreign donations. Furthermore, it approves the constitution, project proposal, budget clearance and work for ensuring the transparency and accountability of the NGOs. This bureau plays an important role as a guard of the government. It can at any time anywhere demand clarification of any unclear, unauthorized and subversive activities inside a NGO.  My son-in-law also helped me to get a special permission to be able to start the construction work of the office building before we could receive clearance. Through hard work overcoming  a lot of hassle,  on 21 October 1990,  SUS finally received  NGO affairs bureau registration.

These historical snapshots commemorate 30 years of SUS
and the life of founder Rokeya Begum, based on her book
“My way to freedom through the light of experience” and
other background documents. We are publishing snapshots
before and after the 30 years’  ceremony to be held in
Netrakona, Bangladesh, on the 2 January 2017.



”Margit Palokangas, my good friend from my first Finnish work-camp, brought the first donation collected for SUS from abroad.”












”Through hard work overcoming  a lot of hassle,  on 21 October 1990,  SUS finally received  NGO affairs bureau registration.”