The sounds of car horns, bird calls, bike bells and the stench of the open sewers surrounded me as I walked through a Dhaka slum in flip-flops.
Wandering through a labyrinth of alleyways and small streets, my guide was leading me to meet a group of mothers who were game changers. Social influencers. Women changing their fate as well as their daughters’.
I felt a little doubtful of these women. My idea of Dhaka, capital of Bangladesh, was tainted by Google searches that stated more than 200 Bangladeshi women were killed a year by their husbands and in-laws over dowries. Women didn’t seem to have a lot of power in this culture from reports I had read.
But in this poor community, the men and women weaved gently around each other and traffic. Violence was tucked away into the dark corridors—hidden from my view. Maybe the research wasn’t as accurate as it claimed to be.
A few minutes later, I was sitting with six women on the soil floor of a wooden building on a worn, weaved mat. Each woman proudly told me how they had children. In Bangladeshi culture, a woman’s family is her pride and honor.
The women told me how Food for the Hungry had invited them to join a savings group to learn to read. How in this group, after learning to read and write—they learned their legal rights. Some women were surprised to find that it’s illegal in Bangladesh to have dowries.
So these six women, along with 271 other women in this Dhaka slum, decided that none their daughters would have dowries. These women decided the violence would stop with them. Their children would not be abused or murdered for money traditionally given in marriage from the bride’s family.
The look on their faces was unyielding. This cultural change was permanent. Their daughters would learn to read, write and know their rights. Their daughters would learn to provide an income to contribute to caring for their husbands and children.
As I sat there, listening to these women, who had only themselves—I realized motherhood is not about just taking care of one’s children. But it’s also the development of one’s self for the betterment of one’s children. Because these women learned to read, write, run a business and developed their talents, their daughters will have safer relationships and healthier lifestyles.