NASREEN RAB RUBA
Interview by: Afroza Naznin Shumi
Nasreen Rab Ruba, born in the year of 1954. She passed her SSC from Sylhet Government Pilot Girls School in the year 1970 and then got admitted into Holy Cross College of Dhaka. She got married to Army officer Captain Abdur Rob on 14th of March in the year 1971. After the initiation of the Liberation War just in a span of two weeks, her husband joined the war, and along with him, she joined as well. After the liberation war, she graduated from her school and college and joined Dhaka University in the Department of Social Science. After completing her graduation, she started teaching towards the end of the eighties, and after two decades of teaching, she started social works. She got affiliated with Women in Multilateral Agriculture or WEMA, NRB village, Minimart, and International medical college and a number of other organizations. But Nasreen Rab Ruba is more comfortable with introducing herself as a social worker. She has talked with The Pages about her long career and social contributions.
You are a Freedom Fighter, and besides that, you are a social worker. How far have we achieved in these four decades in the social sector? And how have you been associated with this?
Our social sector has progressed a lot. In terms of any social index, we are preceding a lot in comparison to our neighboring countries. There was a time when it was something that we could barely imagine. And the most noticeable change is the progress of women. If I talk about my own era, most of the women were used to staying within their households. Particularly, the wives of army officers could barely be imagined to be affiliated with work out of their homes. But take a look now, all the spouses of Army officers are now involved in some form of economic activity. When I started the Boutique business, then our country had only 13 such organizations, whereas now we have an endless stream of such initiatives. But in the field of diversified business, women are still lagging behind a lot. This is why we have established a resort in the WEMA village. We are inspiring women to be involved with Resort business because this is a diversified business. Including catering services, women have progressed in other forms of business as well. And above all, the most remarkable thing is the interest of women in participating in the economy.
This is the picture of the current urban women, what are your views on the change in our rural women?
Rural women aren’t lagging behind either; they are stepping forward in all sorts of work as well. In our times, rural women were used to working only in households, whereas now, all sorts of commercial endeavors are being seen. Be it an urban setup or rural, women everywhere are interested in achieving self-reliance.
Even though women have progressed in the economic sector, they are still behind when it comes to decision making roles in the family. Even a lot of times, they hesitate to make their own decisions. Other family members are imposing their decisions on them. Why do you think that this space isn’t still experiencing a change?
Actually, this is happening because of the patriarchal structure of our society. Even though women are being allowed to participate in the economy, they aren’t being included in policy-making with openness. But if a woman earns in her family, this definitely increases the acceptance of her opinions in her family. Though, till now, a lot of women do not have control even over their own incomes. If you ask most of the garments workers about what have they done with their money, they will reply that they have submitted their earnings to their husbands or their fathers. They barely keep anything to themselves. In this case, women are required to be more conscious as well. It is of utmost importance that they practice saving for themselves.
Could you please share about your contributions in the social sector?
If I am asked about my involvement with the social sector, I am working more diligently with WEMA currently. I am trying to transform this association into an NGO. I am trying my best in this regard. But I alone can do only so much. If this organization can be transformed into an NGO, I can make our services reachable to even more women from the grassroots level. And as soon as I retired from teaching, I got myself affiliated with Ayesha Memorial Trust. We established a hospital. This organization is no more with us. But we are connected with International Medical LTD from the very beginning. Besides commercial endeavors, we are trying to serve people in various ways through this organization.
Besides a lot of progress in our social sector, we still have a lot of work left to be done. No one can really do much as an individual, so what do you think should be the intervention of our government in this case?
Government is making a lot of efforts, to be honest. But those of us are working, we owe this much to the government that we inform them of the real problems with transparency. And the government should also stay serious about monitoring who is working seriously and who isn’t. Those who are handling their works smartly are often getting disproportionately more opportunities. Again, a lot of people who are doing very good works aren’t being able to come to the limelight effectively.
Being distanced from the capital, marginalized women who are making praiseworthy social efforts must have it even harder in this case. Are they beyond the visibility ranges of government’s policymakers in that case?
If they aren’t facilitated properly, it won’t really be possible for them to step forward. Despite staying within the capital, so many of us struggle to come into the considerations of the policymakers. Majority of the women leaders are not interested in working with marginalized women. They are more interested in working with a handful of Dhaka-centered elite women entrepreneurs for faster and more effective promotions. Actually, we need more mindset-oriented transformations for this.
Do you think that the contributions of women in the Liberation War have received justifiable honor in Bangladesh?
It can’t be claimed that these contributions had been acknowledged very effectively before. But recently, the government has taken up a few praiseworthy initiatives. They have collected the Indian lists for more accurate verifications and honored women accordingly. They definitely deserve cordial gratitude in this regard.