Sajia Afreen is a young social entrepreneur, who's recently turned up on the international radar. She has been travelling the world, networking with people, exchanging ideas and taking initiatives to execute them. Most recently, she was selected to attend a conference with the help of the UN's World Merit Organisation, as the sole delegate from Bangladesh. This young woman has been working diligently with a view to creating a platform for sharing ideas to promote initiatives towards reaching Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
Tell us about the types of ideas that you have been exchanging with other social entrepreneurs?
There are a lot of ideas that we exchange, now and then. But currently I have some upcoming projects in India, where we try to help land owners and farmers join hands in order to develop their lands. It is an experiment where real-estate, agriculture and development intertwine. Our steps are still on a trial basis; we intend to prevent farmers from being ripped off and make sure everyone gets their fair share. And from there, I plan to bring my experience on board for some projects in Bangladesh. I started a social enterprise named Evolving Bangladesh. This won’t be a charity organisation; rather I will take a more realistic approach- like teaching them to hunt and gather their food as opposed to handing them free food.
Since you are trying to help farmers with real estate for development, how might some of your projects help Bangladesh?
First of all I want to clear out, it’s not only about Bangladesh, and these ideas don’t have passports or flags, it is global. But from my country’s perspective, it can help build newer cities with proper infrastructure and a population with pragmatic skill sets. In a way the population would be more spread out which means that Dhaka will not be the only city our country will depend on. There are so many people coming into the city with blind and vague ambitions. I want people in other cities to have options beyond the capital. People in other parts of the country can access better resources like internet connection, educational facilities, electricity, etc.
Given your interest in making the (SDGs) a reality, what is your opinion on the government’s initiative of building the Rampal Power Plant? Are you concerned about the potential threats to the Sundarbans?
Of course as a person, I am worried about the environment. But I am not an expert regarding that issue, so I can’t comment much on that, my criticism wouldn’t have much weight, given my situation at the moment. Nevertheless, I do believe that Bangladesh needs more electricity supply to reach its SDGs. Not sure if the government is taking the right or the wrong actions. However, I wholeheartedly appreciate the Prime Minister’s initiative towards “Digital Bangladesh”. I mean without the internet I wouldn’t be able to do the things I am doing. For that I thank her. I might not agree with everything the authorities do, but I always hope that we can all peacefully live together in a country despite having different opinions.
You seemed to be an ambitious person, please elaborate on what made you such a brave soul?
Well, I think when I joined the science club in my school, where I had an executive position; it helped me to network with more and more people. I was really into my extracurricular activities, it tempered my academics. My parents were disappointed when I dropped science in my final year of HSC. Their dreams of me being a doctor were shattered. So my dad told me, “If you want to study business, join IBA.” But I knew that I wouldn’t want to get into that place. That wasn’t for me. By then I had some time in hand, to prepare for the admission exams. But instead I kept my focus on networking by participating in various Model UN conferences and public speaking events. After that, I got admitted to North South University, and my parents were still a bit disappointed, but when I started bringing in more awards and certificates, they are now more supportive than ever. At this point, I would like to thank Abdun Noor Tushar for his generosity; he helped me out when I needed the most.