Asha Lata Baidya, or Ashalata Boidda – Bangladesh

Linked with the Sunflower Association SMS.

She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.

She says: “I do not waste time, ever. I did not waste even an hour in my whole student life for any boyfriend. I did not even get married. I believe in hard work and sacrifice”.

And she says: “Hello. I am Asha Lata. I am thrilled that you are reading this. While we are quietly working in the poor villages, we are hidden away from the people in the big cities of Bangladesh and the world. Sometimes as we battle to overcome oppression and poverty we feel that nobody cares. Your visit to our website gives us all encouragement. We realise that we are not alone in our desire to live in a better world with equality for all … ” (full text).

Asha Lata Baidya - Bangladesh two.jpg

Asha Lata Baidya, or Ashalata Boidda – Bangladesh

She works for ‘Surjamukhi Sangstha SMS’, short for ‘Sunflower Association SMS‘.

Asha Lata Baidya, or Ashalata Boidda, is one of Bangladesh’s best-known freedom-fighters. She joined the freedom struggle of 1971 against Pakistan when she was only 15 years old and went on to lead the women’s guerrilla corps. After she completed her studies – suspended until her country won independence – she set up the Surjamukhi Sangstha SMS. SMS has been working on issues ranging from setting up cooperatives and helping with loans to women’s empowerment, education, and environmental issues. More than 200,000 families have benefited from Asha Lata’s 34 years of tireless activism.

She is the eldest of three sisters, was born in Latenga village, Kotalipara thana in Bangladesh on February 12, 1956. Her father, Haripada Boidda, was a schoolteacher, her mother, Sharalamoyee, a homemaker.

It was in school that Ashalata became involved in the political struggle in the then East Pakistan. The Pakistani genocide against Bangladesh was launched on March 25, 1971. A month later, a group of freedom-fighters visited the Boidda house and asked whether one member from the family would join the freedom struggle. “My father told them that he had no son”, she recalls. “His daughter, meaning me, would join them. I was very excited and left home with the group to take part in the liberation war”. Thus, all of 15-years-old, Ashalata joined Bangladesh’s fight for independence.

She learnt how to operate firearms and was trained in guerrilla combat. As commander of the women guerrillas, the Mohila Muktijodha Dal, she led several operations. Only after Bangladesh had won its independence in January 1972 did Ashalata again attend to her education, going on to complete her Bachelors and Masters in Bengali literature and setting up, in college, small women’s cooperatives. Capitalizing on this experience, she formed the Surjomukhi Social Welfare Sanstha, soon after she completed her Masters.

Ashalata has been working for the past 34 years, organizing people at the grassroots and aiding them in becoming economically solvent. Surjomukhi helps people set up cooperatives, including farming cooperatives, and small businesses, and is also involved in organizing small loans. It works in 42 upazilas in 17 districts and about 200,000 families have benefited so far.

Ashalata combines her altruistic business acumen with advocacy and raising awareness on issues ranging from human rights, gender issues, the environment, primary health, and HIV/AIDS. Her work on human resources development includes training Bangladesh’s teeming marginalized to achieve greater self-sufficiency. She has also conducted programs on social development, environmental pollution, community-based disaster-preparedness, and non-formal education and is working to strengthen local government initiatives for women’s empowerment.

One of Ashalata’s abiding concerns is the abysmal literacy and education levels in Bangladesh, even several decades after independence. She fiercely advocates the imperativeness of literacy and education and enrolls children in schools.

She has, over the years, had to brave the antagonism of powerful lobbies. In 1988, for instance, when Kotalipara was devastated by floods, Ashalata managed to obtain disaster relief from the international community for 30,000 people. When a powerful politician asked the relief agencies to cough up ‘protection money’, Ashalata and Surjomukhi launched a campaign. The brother of a high-ranking Cabinet minister went so far as to put a price on Ashalata’s head. She brought the crisis to the attention of international human rights organizations and donor agencies: it worked – she was left alone to carry on her work.

“I do not waste time, ever, I had not wasted even an hour in my whole student life for any boyfriend. I did not even get married. I believe in hard work and sacrifice. From my very childhood I had fought against injustice. Now I am hopeful that things will change for the better”. ‘Asha’ means hope, you see!? (1000PeaceWomen).

She is named on Bangalee Women.

Ce portrait fait partie du livre ‘1000 femmes pour la paix’: Asha Lata Baidya est née en 1956. C’est une des combattantes pour la liberté parmi les plus connues du Bangladesh. Elle a rejoint la lutte pour la liberté contre le Pakistan en 1971 alors qu’elle n’avait que 15 ans et elle a continué en prenant la tête du corps féminin de la guérilla. Après avoir terminé ses études – suspendues jusqu’à ce que son pays gagne son indépendance – elle a créé le Surjamukhi Sangsta (SMS).Le SMS travaille sur des problèmes qui vont de l’établissement de coopératives et d’aide au crédit jusqu’à la prise de pouvoir des femmes, leur l’éducation et les problèmes environnementaux. Plus de 200 000 familles ont bénéficié des 34 ans d’activisme sans relâche d’Asha Lata. (voir tout le texte).

link: eicus tradicional.

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