Shaikh Saif Al Rashid, founder and chief executive officer of JITA Bangladesh, has been awarded the prestigious Ashoka Fellowship. Recognising his work on building a rural distribution network, embedding economic opportunities for marginalised women across Bangladesh, Rashid now joins the world’s largest and most influential network and of social entrepreneurs.
Abdullah Chowdhury (Robin), country leader of Ashoka Innovators for the Public (Bangladesh) said: “We are delighted over Saif Rashid’s inclusion in our network as a Fellow. This award is a reflection of his ability to re-engineer traditional distribution network of commodities, which excludes women from making purchasing decisions.” He also added, “His approach of merging the private sector efficiency, with a strong social impact of providing economic opportunities has proved to be a great tool in transforming the lives of many marginalised women, and has immense potential for Global replication.”
According to Ashoka’s official announcement: “In rural Bangladesh, communities practice a strong patriarchal culture, excluding women from economic and livelihood activities. Saif’s hybrid model has been effective in providing livelihood opportunities for the base of the pyramid female population in rural Bangladesh by defying, social, cultural and gender barriers. In JITA Bangladesh, Saif has nurtured a rural distribution network, incorporating women micro-entrepreneurs to provide access of essential consumer products to communities that are excluded from mainstream distribution channels. He has crafted a new scheme to amplify women empowerment through developing a replicable enterprise model that leverages the complementary strengths of both citizen-sector organisations and private commercial companies.”
Rashid now joins the network of over 3200 fellows globally across 80 countries, which includes two Nobel Peace Prize winners. In Bangladesh, Ashoka has elected over 75 Fellows across different sectors since 1988. According to them, Bangladesh is placed as a top priority, particularly in the areas of education and economic inclusion. The network in Bangladesh also includes Ashoka Academy Member, Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, who is recognised as one of the “Global Greats” by the same organisation.