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Story and photos courtesy of Heifer Bangladesh

When we entered the homestead of Hasna Begum, she was milking one of her three cows. She greeted us with a smile and “Salam.” After finishing her work she told us her story. She lives in the Olipur union of the Raipura sub-district in Narshingdi, Bangladesh, and joined the Shapla Mohila Unnayan Samity self-help group (SHG) in March 2010, which was involved with a Heifer project. At that time, her family had no assets, let alone cows or other livestock. Her husband Abul Kashem worked as day laborer, and his income barely met his family's needs. With two children, Hasna was always in a bind trying to balance their little income with their needs. At times, it was difficult for them to manage even two meals a day.  

She attended various trainings on topics including Heifer’s 12 Cornerstones for Just and Sustainable Development, improved animal management, group management and gender. Before these trainings, Hasna thought it was natural for women to not have any say or participation in making family decisions. She knew her husband would not listen to her and believed “he knows the best.” After the training, however, she realized that she also had a part to play in the family's decision-making, especially in matters that affect her and her children, and she understood it was always best to consult with family members about decisions to be made. Her husband's way of thinking was changing, too, especially after attending trainings on gender and the Cornerstones.

Hasna never dreamed she could own any assets, but after her trainings she received a young bull and started applying what she had learned. After six months she sold the bull for 31,000 takas, or about $395, and bought a dairy cow. The cow provided about one to 1 ½ gallons of milk every day, of which she kept about a quart for her children. She also had savings with her SHG. With a loan from the SHG and money collected from selling milk, she bought another dairy cow. The first cow gave birth to a calf, and she began selling two to 2 ½ gallons of milk per day. Her husband leased some land for growing vegetables and their sons started school. The family dreams of one day starting their own business. They have already taken huge steps toward that dream.


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Heifer International

Heifer International is a nonprofit, non-governmental organization working with communities to end hunger and poverty while caring for the Earth.