How SUS began: 1985-86

Photo: Margit Palokangas

A dream long held starts to come true

The seed of this dream to empower women in my areas was sown in 1985. The birth of Sabalamby Unnayan Samity (SUS) was in 1986.

I had nurtured this dream for long time, to empower the women in my area of Netrakona.  I was not able to implement the dream because I lacked appropriate knowledge, skills, ideas, advice and co-operation.

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Divorce, then getting an education

Begum Rokeya and SUS are today highly respected in Netrakona, Bangladesh.  Photo: Maj-Lis Koivisto

Wagged a finger at narrowminded society

My joyful childhood was ended abruptly. I cannot clearly recall that period of my life any more. It is suppressed in my subconscious mind.  I only remember an intolerable, inexpressible feeling of living in torture. Marriage held a promise of some kind of satisfaction. Not for me; I lived under abnormal oppression.

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Begum Rokeya: At my desk today

Photo: Maj-Lis Koivisto

Development – seen from a distance

Thinking of what I have achieved or not achieved during my long struggling life, I feel duty-bound to write.  I don’t know whether my experiences with writing will bring any meaning to the readers or make any impact on their mind or not. Combining all my experiences I can only say how much I have achieved today and how much struggle I have faced to help the development of people. This is the power of mine; this is the freedom of mine. Let me draw out the contours and throw some light on how things came to be.

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Kowrat – when village life was sweet


Begum Rokeya with her sisters and one daughter. Her family always supported her and her work with SUS.  Photo: Private

The time when women were seed-keepers

I hold many joyful childhood memories from visiting my grandparents in Kowrat village, even if I they were only short visits during the  winter and summer vacations.  I still carry in my heart the extraordinary feeling of going to my grandparents twice a year, riding upon the ox cart – or as we called i – the bullock cart. I can remember how travellers on their way home sat on bullock carts riding along the brick-lain road close to forests and villages surrounded by bamboo thicket.

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Our new integrated approach

Integrated approach replaces single interventions

Having seen micro-credit alone give disappointing results, SUS initiated a more comprehensive approach working with different social units in a village. Up to now, results have been outstandingly positive.

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Coming soon!

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

Organisations supporting SUS are welcome to re-publish the texts in full on their own websites.

Symaskiner som 30-årspresent


Grattis-foto. Bilden togs på medlemsmötet den 15 september.  Foto: Olof Meurling


Symaskiner 30-årsgåva till SUS

När SUS firar sitt 30-årsjubileum kommer Maj-Lis Koivisto och Margit Palokangas från styrelsen att närvara. 

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