IDS and Sussex alumnus Mamunur Rahman has been shortlisted for a prestigious British Council Alumni Award in the South Asia regional Social Impact Category. The Award recognises the outstanding achievements of alumni with a UK higher education whose work has positively changed their society or community.
Mamunur completed a Masters degree in Gender and Development taught jointly by IDS and the University of Sussex in 2007. On graduating, Mamunur joined the SME Foundation serving eight million small and medium enterprises (SMEs) directly and indirectly with policy support. Mamunur led the research and policy advocacy team promoting women entrepreneurs in Bangladesh and was instrumental in creating a section on Women Entrepreneurs in the public office.
Supporting women and girls’ economic empowerment through improved sanitation
In 2012, Mamunur worked as a gender auditor for UNFPA. During this role he surveyed 15 garment factories in Bangladesh and identified that lack of access to toilets and sanitary equipment for women workers resulted in two to three days a month missed work, loss of salary and lower productivity.
In response to this, the following year Mamunur began a research and development process which led to the ‘Ella Pad’; a low-cost feminine hygiene product for poor working women and school girls who drop out of work or school on a monthly basis. The Ella Pad’s key feature is that it is made by female workers, owned by female workers and used by female workers. The Ella Pad sanitary napkins are made by the garment workers using leftover material or scraps from the clothing industry. Although it was a struggle to convince factory owners to allow their workers to have access to machines and materials to make their own sanitary napkins; now it is regarded as good practice for the factories.
In an article for the IDS Alumni Network Mamunur explained: “Ultimately I want to change the lives of two billion people globally; my more immediate target is that of the four million poor garment sector workers of Bangladesh. …We are leading with a target to create 1,000 women entrepreneurs who will create another 100,000 green jobs for poor women by 2020. In the context of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the low-cost green napkin project is so critical that it is addressing at least 12 out of 17 SDG goals”.
As the founder of Ella Pad, Mamunur is now focussing on fundraising, liaising with both factory owners and workers to ensure smooth operation inside the factories and setting a strategy for expansion. Since he was shortlisted for the Alumni Awards the Ella Pad has received glowing recognition both internationally and in the Bangladesh Press.
Mamunar said: “During my time studying the MA Gender and Development I focussed on women and sanitation issues. I was influenced by Professor Robert Chamber’s work on development and sanitation. The uniqueness of IDS and Sussex was that they encouraged me to develop my own initiative in my area. I was encouraged to develop my own ideas and to create opportunities for many.”
British Council Awards
2018 is the first year that the British Council has organised regional awards. Regional winners will be announced on 19 April 2018. We are proud of the contribution that studying with IDS and the University of Sussex has made to enabling Mamunur to achieve such remarkable impacts, and we wish him the very best of luck.
Last month alumna Sosan Aziz was a finalist in the Pakistan awards programme, whilst in 2017, alum Bolaji Abdullahi’s work on educational reforms in Nigeria saw him selected as a finalist in the Nigeria awards.