By Naz Islam:
My recent visit to Bangla-desh was incredible, a truly memorable experience to last a lifetime. I visit Bangladesh relatively frequently, at least once or twice a year, but my visit in September 2019 will always be the most eventful and remarkable.
For those of you who don’t know, I am involved with the Conservative Party here in the UK and my travel to Bangladesh was related to the organization known as the Conservative Friends of Bangladesh (CFOB). The CFOB is engaged in Bangladesh to enhance the mutual bilateral relations as well as being involved in multi-faceted philanthropic and charitable activities in conjunction with other local NGOs.
Through CFOB UK, we organized our annual trip to Bangladesh with Members of Parliament from the UK House of Commons and scores of CFOB members. The team was led by our President, Mrs. Anne Main MP and accompanied by Mr. Paul Scully MP, the Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party, and Bob Blackman MP.
The guests from the UK joined in various activities in Sylhet including cleaning the bank of the River Surma, a spectacular event and a real eye opener for local people. For the first time in the city’s history, British MPs engaged themselves in Sylhet – sweeping the roads and plugging the river front with discarded litter. They also undertook many other activities around the areas of poverty elevation, the rehabilitation of destitute children and education programmes for impoverished young people.
These were our self-funded projects and we have not received any funding from any sources.
As the General Secretary of the CFOB, I personally had to work relentlessly with the rest of the executive committee over the last year to accumulate enough funds to organize the trip. The enormous amount of networking and fundraising activities we had to undertake was grueling but the end result of the trip was absolutely mind blowing. When I could see the smiles in the faces of those kids, youths and the volunteers who were part of the activities, it made it all worthwhile.
It was so rewarding to see British MPs joining with the people of Sylhet in dancing, painting, drama and general chit chat. Two nations united. As a Bangladeshi-born British national who came to England at an early age and lived here ever since, these experiences have opened my eyes about the plight of the people in Sylhet and made me understand how I can be part of uplifting them from their impediments.
Their resilience, their ambition and their mindset has enriched my own resolves. I was mesmerized with their infectious determination and passion for life.
No wonder the country is progressing so fast. It is these people’s aspirations and ambitions which are perpetuating this momentous growth. Bangladesh is on a climbing altitude and in no time the country will eradicate the curses of poverty. The growth of Bangladesh is phenomenal – epitomized and emboldened by our rare opportunity to meet the Honorable Prime Minister HE Sheikh Hasina; the enlightened and passionate daughter of our beloved Father of The Nation.
Her conviction and her leadership has shaped the economy of the country and moved it to a different spectrum. I was completely taken by her down to earth mannerisms and affectionate motherly conversation.
It made me think once again about what is the essence of leadership and a good leader. The meeting with Her Excellency the Prime Minister will remain as one of the most prestigious events of my life. I shall never be able to forget her passion about Bangladesh and her unwavering love for the people of the country. Standing under the shadow of the watchful portrait of the Father of the Nation will be a moment for me to cherish all my life.
The delegates and the British MPs were surprised to find our Prime Minister being such a humble and down to earth personality too. The relationship and the camaraderie was further cemented when Anne Main MP addressed the Honorable Prime Minister as ‘Apa’ (Sister).
Anne Main has visited Bangladesh eight times previously, more than any other current British MP.
Two years ago, the CFOB’s visit to the Rohingya camp and subsequent briefings at the House of Commons prompted unwavering support from the British Government. This time around the British Government has pledged another £87 million worth of aid and cash for the Rohingya refugee crisis.
Seeing things first hand has convinced me absolutely that the people of Bangladesh have embarked on a magnificent highway to reach the pinnacle of the growth. It has become an emerging tiger in the world. It is imperative to reiterate that British Bangladeshi entrepreneurs must continue to invest in Bangladesh to increase the FDI.
The world is talking about Bangladesh. No one can stop the rise of my country.
Writer General Secretary of Conservative Friends of Bangladesh – UK.