Shaheen Anam :: Mrs. Shamsun Nahar Rahman or Paran Apa was an extra ordinary person in every way. Besides being a loving homemaker and mother, she was a visionary leader with a special empathy for the marginalized section of society. She started the organization Ghashful in Chittagong in the early 70’s which over years has now become a large and well known organization working on empowerment of women and meeting the basic needs of vulnerable children.
As a person she was kind and generous. Everyone who came in contact with her understood what a special person she was. There are countless stories about her generosity and warmth. She had a huge capacity to love and she gave that love willingly to those deprived socially and economically.
Paran Apa has inspired many young people to work on social issues. My colleague Banasree recounts meeting her in 1985 or 1986, when she was a student. She visited Poran apa to handover a check on family planning program from UNFPA. This was the first time that Banasree met a social activist. Poran apa spoke about her organization, her dream to alleviate the suffering of people specially children. Later Banasree became a social activist herself and says that it was Poran apa who inspired her.
Paran Apa played a significant role in our Liberation War. She went door to door seeking funds, medicine and materials to help the freedom fighters. She inspired youths to join the struggle and went everywhere talking about love for country and how everyone should contribute. She became well known and an inspiration to youths in Chittagong as she would move in rural areas by a rickshaw encouraging people to protect the motherland. However, the silent role of women in our war of Liberation has not been recognized, and therefore she did not get any award or recognition for it.
She was a pioneer of community development and women’s empowerment and will be remembered for her extraordinary social work during the post-war period of the 1970s. Paran Apa broke stereotype during that period in Chittagong when it was unusual for women to come out and campaign openly. She challenged the existing norms and traditions which was to keep women subjugated within four walls of the home.
Poran apa will be remembered fondly by all who had the privilege of knowing her personally. She will also be remembered by those whose lives she touched with her gentle yet strong commitment.
I remember her with deep respect and admiration and pray for the salvation of her soul.
Writer: Executive Director, Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF)