Bangladesh: Salma Sobhan Fellowship Programme

Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen flew into Dhaka just to award certificates to 32 bright, young women aspiring to come journalists through a programme called the Salma Sobhan Fellowship in Journalism for Women taken up by BRAC and Pratichi Trust.
Trainee fellows from 32 districts of Bangladesh received certificates today at a simple but eventful ceremony held at the Spectra Convention Centre with Amartya Sen as Chief Guest.
Besides Mr. Fazle Hasan Abed, Professor Rehman Sobhan, Prothom Alo Editor Matiur Rahman and BRAC Public Affairs Chief, Minhaz Uddin Anwar, eminent guests included Dr. Kamal Hossain, Ms. Naz, sister of Salma Sobhan, Professor Hamid Hossain, Dr. Jamilur Reza Chowdhury, Vice Chancellor, BRAC University, Syed Humayun Kabir, Mr. Mahfuz Anam, Salma Sobhan’s friends and family members, Abdul Muyeed Chowdhury, Executive Director, BRAC, AMR Chowdhury, Deputy Executive Director BRAC, Manzoor Hassan, Deputy Executive Director, BRAC, M Tajul Islam, Director, Federation of NGOs in Bangladesh, Aminul Alam, Deputy Executive Director, BRAC.

The 32 trainee fellows selected from 32 different districts of Bangladesh, received their certificates from the hands of Amartya Sen upon completion of the first module of the one-year residential training programme which started on December 15, 2004 at the BRAC Training and Resource Centre (TARC) in Savar.

“We have had but a few days for all of us that represent 32 districts to come together, but already we have started to demonstrate the courage to proclaim that with our pens we will overcome the many disparities within the society. Each of us will be soldiers of the pen who will be the future forces against corruption, wrongdoing, suppression and injustice,” said Ms. Selina Kabir Chowdhury, Mymensigh, recipient of the certificate. Mr. Fazle Hasan Abed in his speech, said, “We will only be successful when the girls will really begin to contribute in making our mass media stronger and more effective.” Editor of Prothom Alo, Mr. Matiur Rahman, congratulated all the participants and said, “This is an initiative that we should have taken a long time ago. Thanks to BRAC and Protichi Trust for taking it, finally.” Professor Rahman Sobhan spoke of his wife, Salma Sobhan, saying, “Salma would have been the happiest person today for it was her vision to see women venture into non-traditional professions”.

Professor Amartya Sen said that the expectations that he had of Pratichi Trust could not be fulfilled in any better way than by having programmes such as the Salma Sobhan Fellowship in Journalism for Women. In his memorial lecture on Salma Sobhan, he described his first encounter with Salma Sobhan and registered the memory as one where he recalls Salma Sobhan to be a woman of great beauty and insight. “Mixed with the great happiness I feel today, I cannot deny the great sorrow upon the profound loss over the death of Salma Sobhan” said Professor Sen. “She was a person who knew how to make something difficult very easy.” Professor Sen spoke of Salma Sobhan’s lifelong work towards enforcing human rights, and said, “She should be studied in comparison with the proponents of human Rights. Her Philosophy is closer to Mary Wollstonecraft’s, as both believe that there is no quarrel between the rights of men and women.” “There are more than one ways to uphold human rights,” Professor Sen acquiesced, speaking of Salma Sobhan’s own convictions.

Professor Sen further spoke of Salma Sobhan’s deep knowledge of society and also spoke of the role of media, saying, “Everywhere in the world the role of the newspaper is indisputable.”

The participants also had the opportunity to interact exclusively with Professor Amartya Sen following the awarding of the certificates where one vibrant novice journalist said, “When one person has a vision it is yet a dream, but when everyone sees it, it becomes a new reality.”

The first module of the training programme, titled the Salma Sobhan Fellowship in Journalism for Women was designed by the BRAC Training Division in consultation with Pratham Alo, Holiday and Dhaka University, Department of Mass Communications and Journalism. It combined the sensitization of various issues (including gender, development etc.) in the Bangladeshi context with practical journalistic treatment of those issues. The first half of the course was conducted by the BRAC Training Division and the daily Pratham Alo provided resource persons for training in journalistic treatment of issues. Resource persons for the training include Mr. Faruq A. Choudhury, Advisor, BRAC, Mr. Shahidul Alam, Managing Director, DRIK, Mr. Tajul Islam, Director, Federation of NGOs in Bangladesh (FNB), Mr. Matiur Rahman, Editor, Pratham Alo, Mr. Minhaz Uddin Anwar, Communications Coordinator, BRAC, Dr. Nasima Akter, Research and Evaluation Division, BRAC, Dr. Atiur Rahman, Senior Research Fellow, Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS), Dr. Mostafizur Rahman, Research Director, Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), Dr. Abdul Barakat, Research Director, HDRC, Ms. Sheepa Hafiza, BRAC, Dr. Uttam Kumar Deb, Dr. Imran Matin, Director, RED, BRAC, and Ms. Sultana Kamal, Ayn o Shalish Kendra (ASK).

Fazle Hasan Abed, Founder and Chairperson of BRAC, who conceptualized this fellowship programme, initiated the Salma Sobhan Fellowship in Journalism for Women in the name of the late Barrister Salma Sobhan in conjunction with Pratichi Trust, Bangladesh, established by Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen, to promote and support women in building a career in Journalism. The programme is affiliated with the daily Pratham Alo who, in addition to providing consultation and resource persons regarding the practical journalistic aspect of the training, will also support the participants in the post-training period. The 32 participants were chosen through a rigorous selection process from a pool of 64 applicants from all 64 districts of Bangladesh. Following the initial training phase, selected participants demonstrating satisfactory performance will receive a stipend to continue on in the field of journalism through critical observation and penmanship and daily Pratham Alo will serve as a medium to channel the work of the nascent, future journalists.