There is always a little girl somewhere in every corner of the world in a conservative family, who-- despite all the obstacles thrown from all around-- nurtures big dreams. While some may succeed, most of the dreams get lost within the alleys of marriage and family. But this is the story of a woman who came holding a lightning torch for those women who have lost their individual identity in becoming a mother or a wife.
Nasima Aktar Nisha comes from a traditional conservative family. She completed her business graduation degree (BBA) from North South University. She also obtained her MBA from Southeast University. Growing up, she did not have much of a big dream. She wanted to be a housewife because it was unimaginable in her family for a woman to work outside. Her husband also wanted her to stay home. She fitted herself into the role others wanted for her. But even before she could complete her graduation, her father asked her to take his office due to his sickness. Eventually her husband Faisal A Sikder too got onboard and encouraged Nasima to start working. That was her first step into the business world.
She founded Reverie Corporation Limited in 2011 that has come a long way in the IT industry in Bangladesh. They first started serving both local and global end users by developing games and apps on both the Android and iOS platform. The company is now a member of BASIS and e-CAB. Her app 'How to wear a saree' became famous in the South Asia region. It became one of the top 100 apps in India.
Nasima became the joint secretary of e-Commerce Association Bangladesh (e-CAB) in 2018. However, she is mostly known for creating 'Women and e-Commerce' (WE), which is a platform for women entrepreneurs. WE came into being in 2017 with an aim to help women entrepreneurs in earning and making a strong community among them. Through this platform, she has helped numerous women become independent. One such instance is her affiliation with e-CAB's project 'Manobsheba.' Through this project, she reached many helpless women from middle or lower middle income families. She helped those women in making a business out of their own skills and earn money by selling products like homemade food, clothing, etc using the platform WE.
From March 2020, since the beginning of the lockdown period, she introduced free certification training courses and webinars for women. Among them, one webinar was arranged with the presence of a UK mayor and minister, and Bangladesh High commissioner. Words started spreading around and more and more women started showing interest in honing their basic skills through training and gaining a certificate. In March, the number of members in WE Facebook group was 30,000. Now it is more than a million with around 0.4 million women being entrepreneurs there. By August last, around 350 entrepreneurs became millionaires just from WE.
From September,Nashima started inspecting the situation of the WE women in different districts along with her team. And she was proud to find out that many women were investing in their husband's business and running the family as their husbands lost their jobs or businesses. Only by selling sarees of different fabrics, some women earned Tk 1.5-2 million, while some earned Tk 5.0 million by selling hilsa fish, as of the information she got.
"There is 'man' in the word 'woman,' and 'he' in the word 'she," said Nasima. Therefore she decided to keep 10 per cent male participation in WE. And she says that she did not have to face any difficulties from men even though this is a patriarchal society. Men have worked alongside and supported them as brothers.
Through WE, Nashima became a role model for many women in our country. As for her role models, she mentioned the likes of Luna Shamsuddoha, Shomi Kaiser, Sonia Bashir Kabir, Rizwana Khan, and Farhana Rahman, some exemplary successful women in Bangladesh. She also follows the vision of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina-- to work with domestic products and to focus on the export sector in order to take the country forward. She has set her footprints on both the sectors.
Nasima Aktar Nisha has a passion for working with women. Limited participation of women in every sector used to upset her. When she used to go to different meetings before, she noticed that almost all of the other participants were men and she used to be the only woman there. Her dream is to increase the participation of women directly to the economy of Bangladesh anyhow. She believes, "If half the population of the country is female, then half of the participation in the country's economy should come from women too."
She was invited by the UK parliament to give a presentation on the participation of women of Bangladesh in STEM-- Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. There she talked about the participation of women in almost every sector of Bangladesh, not only STEM. She highlighted the participation of women in the garment industry. The mayor and ministers were so impressed by this presentation that they personally congratulated her.
Nasima now runs several companies along with her IT business. She is also the managing director of Expotex Fashion Limited, one of the largest export quality ready made garment manufacturers in the country. This exemplary woman earned the gold medal of 'Human rights Award, 2015' for her outstanding efforts and contribution to the IT sector of Bangladesh. She won the 'Anannya Top 10' awards for entrepreneurship in 2020 and a Global Business CSR award in 2021.
Nasima has pushed through many difficulties throughout her journey, loss of her father, betrayal, misscarriage, loss of her husband and many others. But she has now learnt how to embrace failures and difficulties. She recommends all women not to stop after getting married. Rather, earning more will bring respect and support from the husbands. And that is what she is doing, as she proudly says, "My limit is not the sky but the planet Mars."
Maria is a third year student of journalism at Dhaka University.
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