International Women’s Day: Piya’s journey of resilience and triumph

To mark International Women’s Day, we are sharing the inspiring story of how one woman in rural Bangladesh changed her life for the better, with support from Islamic Relief.

Women in Bangladesh face many challenges and obstacles to empowerment, from harmful social norms to a lack of access to education and employment opportunities. For women with disabilities, life is even more difficult.

Piya, lives in a remote village in the Rajarhat sub-district of Kurigram in northwestern Bangladesh. The 29-year-old has a hearing impairment and, like many girls in rural Bangladesh, was a victim of early marriage, sometimes known as child marriage.

In rural Bangladesh, women and girls have few opportunities to earn an income and are often viewed as financial burdens. Marriage is the most common way to relieve that burden, prompting many families to marry off their daughters before the girls reach adulthood.

Piya’s parents were worried she might also face discrimination because of her hearing impairment and thought marriage could shield her from that. So, at age 14, she began married life. Social norms around the role of a wife made it impossible for Piya to continue her education, forcing her to drop out of school.

Piya’s husband, Chand Mia, works as a day labourer but struggles to make ends meet with his limited income. Ensuring his wife and children received 3 nutritious meals a day was a constant struggle for him. The situation was difficult for Piya too.

“I experienced profound sadness as I could not contribute more to support my husband. I knew I had to take action, but I was unsure where to begin or what steps to take. The inability to provide meals for our children was particularly painful for me,” she says, reflecting on that challenging time.

A turning point

Piya’s life began to change when she became involved with Islamic Relief. Through the Promoting the Model for the Elimination of Extreme Poverty in rural Bangladesh (EEP) project, she received training, seed money and technical support to launch a business, help break the cycle of poverty and boost her socioeconomic wellbeing. Piya is one of almost 3,500 people facing extreme poverty who will receive support through the 36-month-long project.

Determined to change her family’s situation, Piya embraced the opportunity. With a seed fund of BDT 12,000 (approx. RM512), she began raising goats, expanding her modest farm with Islamic Relief’s support.

Empowered by growing confidence, Piya sought out other streams of income by joining a local self-help group. She found a community offering mutual support as well as sharing knowledge and resources, and became a cashier for the group.

Joining the self-help group opened the door for Piya to make use of Islamic microfinance services. She also took out interest-free loans from the group’s fund to expand her endeavours.

Her small home farm transformed into a diverse landscape, home to goats, chickens, and cows. Project initiatives, such as animal health camps, supported Piya in keeping her animals healthy and well.

Leasing a productive piece of land, Piya cultivated chilli and ginger, which led to substantial monthly profits. She also cultivated her own fodder, saving the money she would have spent buying it, and engaged in other cost-effective farming practices with support from Islamic Relief. Her husband supported her efforts to expand the farm, which became a collaborative effort for the couple.

Piya’s investments and hard work significantly improved her family’s financial situation. She transitioned from depending solely on her husband’s income to becoming a self-sufficient contributor. Beyond her farming activities, Piya became an inspiration within her self-help group, motivating others to pursue their ambitions.

On this International Women’s Day, Piya’s story epitomises determination, resilience, and triumph over adversity. Through her efforts and the right opportunities, she not only achieved financial security but also became an inspiration for those around her.

Islamic Relief is committed to empowering vulnerable people in Bangladesh to lift themselves out of poverty through building sustainable incomes. Please help us to continue this vital work. Donate now.