Jinjiram’s unsung hero - Salma Begum
In 2020, TROSA’s activities on women's' leadership in Bangladesh focused on enhancing the capacities of local women leaders from riverine areas. This has resulted in the surfacing of local women leaders who exemplify the remarkable roles that women can play in contributing meaningfully to river-governance related activities.
Salma Begum, a local community leader in Rowmari village along the banks of the Jinjiram river in Bangladesh is one such emerging local water leader. As part of a community-based organization (CBO) she is affiliated with, she leads to discussions on different issues of her community and take actions for the betterment for her community.
"The river is in my heart, it is in all of our hearts"
Although not native to the Rowmari area, she settled there after being married to a local man. Upon relocating, she understood how integrated the lives and livelihoods of local communities with the river, and the different problems and complexities that come along with being part of a riverine community. She observed how sand mining and erosion are destroying natural resources, causing a threat to life and got inspired to work for the river. She was particularly concerned that her house and the local primary school were at risk for being by the bank, so she involved the people from school and communicated with the village Chairperson about a sand dredger that had stationed there for two years. In solidarity, they stopped the dredging.
Vocal by nature, she is upfront in talking about river governance-related issues. Her leadership helped reinitiate an age-old nature-based practice to tackle riverbank erosion in her area called Bandals.
Salma delightfully says, “The sand-mining over this side has stopped and there is a Bandal over that side – so the village people feel secured now, with the riverbank and the houses saved, we are very happy that we didn’t have to migrate. We want to keep working to protect the rivers. The river is in my heart, it is in all of our hearts.”
As a woman working for river rights, Salma first struggled when people used to criticize for attending the training. Salma says, “Back then, we didn’t know that women leadership is so important, it was new to the people and they could not understand it. But when we stood for ourselves and inspired others too, it demonstrated what all of us can do together, and the problems were solved. “