Personal Is Political

Bangladesh team
Country Director

For positive change, I believe in the power of people

Personal is political', often quoted feminist perspective was popping in my head since June 20th, the international refugee day.

During and post partition of India our mother, Kamela, was living in India, Suri, a provincial town and also in Kolkata. She got married in 1949 and gave birth to her first child in January 1950. Having spent 4 months post the delivery of her child in Suri she moved back to Kolkata with her daughter. As the riots in Kolkata got ugly she and her husband were advised to leave Kolkata and take refugee in Dhaka.

Kamela took the brave step and crossed the border with her husband and her infant in 1950, leaving behind family and friends, the comfort and security she had in her parental home, out of fear of being subjected to violence because of their religious identity.

She felt safe in this new country and city where she could nurse and nurture her daughter and live out of fear. She wanted her child to live and grow up to have a future. Kamela struggled and had to find work to contribute towards the economic sustainability of the family. She worked as an artist along with her husband for the national broadcasting station. She also taught in a girls school in Dhaka.

Kamela shared with me how much pain she experienced when they crossed over to Dhaka and her daughter suffered from diarrhoea, how she breastfed her daughter back to life. Her daughter has grown and is now in her later 60s!

If Kamela had not found refuge, or if she had been separated from her daughter, as President Trump proposed for the Mexican refugees/ migrants, neither Kamela nor her daughter would probably had lived or had the life they had/have!

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I attribute my understanding and strong emotions regarding the rights of the refugees to my mother and her journey in life. How I relate to and take on the cause is both because of my mother and also being a Feminist, again something that is a legacy from my mother.

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I am leading Actionaid Bangladesh to stand with and by the Rohingya refugees since August 2017. We have an amazing team working with the Rohingya refugees in Cox's Bazar. BUT... the Rohingya refugees want certainty and want to move on with their lives, certainly not live in suspended state and time for too long. Will the global leadership deliver? Will the Rohingya refugees be able to live with dignity and nurture their children to a dignified future?

Personal is political!!