Breaking Traditional Notions and Labels – A Discussion on Social Entrepreneurship and Public Services

Saturday, 5th June 2021, was the day for the General Meeting for the core Executive Members and the honorable Advisory Board Members of Reflective Teens. The Executive Team invited Ms. Fahmida Suma, the Co-Founder and Chair of a social enterprise in Jessore and a Senior Officer working under the Australian Federal Government, to speak about being a woman in social entrepreneurship and public services. The meeting began with Ms. Eeshita Azad – the Non-Executive Chair of Reflective Teens- officiating and greeting the members present. Among the Board Members, Ms Warda Ashraf, Mr Mushfique Ahmed and Mr Kazi Monirul Kabir were present to connect with the Executive Members of Reflective Teens and hear from Ms. Fahmida Suma. Ms. Fahmida Suma began with a brief background of her journey from her early teen days in Australia where she worked several part-time jobs to her working for the Australian Government and starting her dream project. From an early age, she had a great amount of love for the people that made her instinctively donate whatever she could from her house. This love grew with time. However, even though through her growing phase she faced various difficulties in her personal life, she worked hard to pursue her education and her dream. She expressed, ‘Through my difficult time, never once did I think of quitting.’ When she was busy building her life, she always had a nagging feeling of not doing enough for the people. Hence, she moved to Bangladesh for a few months to explore her love of the people and her opportunities. Not long after that, she planned and built her organization, IMatter, which was to be a safe space for the young, aged, and underprivileged surrounded by nature to come together and build a more fulfilling life. She explained that sustainable organizations are a necessity because as the priorities of a charitable organization change, its funds diminish rather radically. And when the aim is to support people, income-generating opportunities to fund at least their basic necessities are important. As an example, she described how IMatter has set the momentum to set up series of cafes, tailoring shops, handicraft businesses to fund their projects and further employ those in need. She voiced her belief ‘I wish to break free from the labels, traditional notions, and taboos society binds people with so that we learn from and help one another no matter who we are. This is why she chose not to pay heed to the daunting words of others who called her unwoman-like for not exactly fitting into the expectations she was ‘supposed to fulfill as a woman and dived into helping people as much as possible. She claims that public service and social entrepreneurship have helped her not only be a comfort for her soul but also become comfortably financially independent rather than falling under the neo capitalistic concept of continuously improving one’s living standards. Throughout the discussion, all the members interacted actively with Ms. Fahmida Suma by appraising her brave encounters as well as asking questions to understand better. To a question raised about the fear of failing by a member, Ms. Warda Ashraf, long term friend of Ms. Fahmida Suma, answered to be grateful for however little achievement we gain. She explained how important it is to take the failures as a learning and keep moving forward. Ms. Fahmida Suma ended her inspiring tale by expressing the need to give oneself time and not being too harsh on oneself for not achieving everything one planned to.