The champion of the 'have-nots'

Abdul Bayes | Published: April 26, 2018 21:35:29 | Updated: April 27, 2018 21:22:20

"It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams" - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Today is the 82nd birthday of Sir Fazle Hasan Abed KCMG, the founder and chairperson of the world's number one NGO, BRAC. Let us extend a happy birthday to Sir Fazle Hasan Abed.

Fazle Hasan Abed was born into the esteemed Hasan family of Baniachong under Hobiganj district on April 27, 1936. Passing out from Pabna Zilla School and Dhaka College with flying colours, he moved to England at the age of only 18 for pursuing higher studies. After completing professional education in 1962, Abed joined world-renowned Shell Oil Company in the then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), and perhaps as a prize to his perseverance, he quickly rose to head finance division of the large conglomerate. 

Abed has dedicated his life to the cause of those lying at the lowest rung of the societal ladder and/or at the bottom of the per capita income scale. Again, he devoted his attention to the painful conditions of millions of women who are victims of a discriminating patriarchal social structure. Having participated in the great war of liberation in 1971, and after returning home, he decided to leave the lavish life of the executive of a multinational company and, literally, to wage a war against both income and non-income   poverty. He has developed this egalitarian worldview, possibly, from his close contact with  his younger paternal uncle  Sayed Hasan, a left-leaning intellectual, cultural activist and secular politician, who was brutally killed by the Pakistani Army on the eve of independence. In fact, Sir Abed was greatly influenced by his mother and uncle Hasan.   

Sir Abed is one of the most influential persons of the world, according to the Fortune. He has been honoured with numerous national and international awards for his achievements, including the prestigious World Food Prize 2015, also known as Nobel Prize for Agriculture. He pioneered a new approach to development that has effectively and sustainably addressed the interconnectedness between hunger and poverty. While receiving the prize, he said in a noble gesture: "I must acknowledge that the award does not belong to me alone, it is the recognition of BRAC's work over the last 43 years in providing pathways out of poverty for millions of people in Bangladesh and other countries in Africa and Asia…..The real heroes are the poor themselves and in particular, the poverty-hit women who overcome enormous challenges each day of their lives ….Throughout our work across the world, we have learnt that countries and culture vary; but realities, struggles, aspirations and dreams of poor and marginalised people are remarkably similar."

The rise of BRAC to the top position in the league of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) worldwide, three years in a row, owes much to the vision and mission with which Sir Abed founded BRAC in 1972. Meantime, under his overall guidance and captainship of Muhammad Musa (ED, BRAC), the organisation has drawn worldwide applause for standing by the Rohingya refugees. It's a rare example of a developmental organisation acting as a humanitarian crisis management organisation.

Sir Abed finds the lack of 'empathy' in society and widespread discrimination against women highly revolting. He firmly believes that an enabling environment of empathy and respect to women could lead to creating a sustainably developed society that our martyrs had dreamt of.  

The hero of the 'have-nots' at 82 is still active and agile. We hail the hero and wish him a long and productive life. Following Jonathan Swift we say:   May you live all the days of your life.

Abdul Bayes is a former Professor of Economics at Jahangirnagar University.

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