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SWO Articles and Documents

2003 Report:
The Nari Uddug Kendra Organization in Bengladesh

NOVATO, CALIFORNIA -- We had a very lovely evening at the Garden Court Restaurant in Novato with Shefali last night. We opened with Fatiha. The dinner was well attended and it seemed that all of the women in the room, who came from many backgrounds and faiths, were inspired by what we learned about the lives of women and girls in Bangladesh and by the slides that were shown of the services that are being provided to some of the poor and the abused girls there. We had an introduction by Tabra, who befriended Shefali in Bangladesh several years ago.

Shefali told us about Nari Uddug Kendra, the organization she started in 1991 to work towards gender equality and for women's rights. It was difficult to hear about some of the abuse that girls and women endure and amazing to see photos of these same women after they had begun to receive services through Nari Uddug. She spoke about rape and the stigma that goes with it, often causing the girls to attempt suicide because there is no longer a place for them in society; their families disown them and they have no chance to marry if it is known that they were raped.

Nari Uddug Kendra brings them out of their rural communities (for their safety), pays for the education and housing for these girls in the city, allowing them to be contact with their families whenever possible, and opens the opportunity for them to either become independent through education and work or to marry in a different local if that is their choice. There are other women who receive loans of $50, with which they are then able to build a business. She gave several examples of women who paid back the loan and then continued to multiply their income over the next few years. $50 is more money than many of them have ever seen.

Shefali spoke about the way that education the opportunities it brings are changing the societal structure in Bangladesh. The rich, the male religious leaders, and the government all have issues with the changes that are coming about as more girls and women are able to rise out of poverty and victimization. Part of the work that Shefali and the people in her organization are doing is to try to build alliances. If I hear her correctly, she said that there are 200 staff members in Nari Uddug Kendra and 90% of their work is in rural areas where women are generally at home under the authority of men.

At the dinner we also received copies of the latest SWO newsletter, which celebrates 10 years of Sufi Women Organization and its accomplishments.
Announcements of upcoming events were made, including:

Sufi Poetry and Tea at the Divine Mysteries: Women Encountering the Sacred
Tour of Canal Ministry and shared meal.
Eleventh Annual Sufism Symposium Hilton Hotel San Jose, California.

We were shown the plaque that the Sufi Women Organization Prison Project received in recognition of their service work in Marin County. We were reminded of the many service programs of SWO, including literacy, United Nations, Newsletter and publications, fundraising, and the chapters of SWO. We expressed the gratitude we feel for SWO and how it has enriched our lives.

Sending peace and light to the people of Bangladesh, we closed with Fatiha.

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