Padma Mohila Unnayan Samiti

Pictured: CEO Lisa West-Newman (centre) with the official commemorative certificate handover to Padma Mohila Unnayan Samiti Leadership. Symbiosis Bangaldesh Country Director Dr Abdur Rahman (foreground), alongside senior Symbiosis Bangladesh staff and local dignitaries.

On the 30 September 2023, Symbiosis International celebrated the ‘graduation’ of the Padma Mohila Unnayan Samiti (Padma Women’s Development Association). ‘Padma’, as it is affectionately known, was the first registered community based organisation (CBO) with the Bangladesh government from within the Symbiosis network of CBOs. 

The celebration was an auspicious occasion for the whole local community with attendance from local Imams and dignitaries, Symbiosis staff, foreign visitors, CBO leaders and members, and with the honoured guests being , CEO Symbiosis International, Lisa West-Newman and Country Director Symbiosis Bangladesh, Dr Abdur Rahman.

What does ‘Graduation’ mean?
“A product of 18 long years, today we are present at Padma Women’s Development Association’s self-reliance celebration, it is a great achievement for us” 
Padma Mohila Unnayan Samiti President, Sharifa Khatun

A celebration of self-reliance is an eloquent way to describe both the journey of Padma of the past 18 years, as well as, their confidence and independence as an organisation for the years ahead. Essentially, the graduation ceremony celebrates Symbiosis and Padma’s relationship changing. The relationship has grown from one where management of Padma’s governance and affairs was completed with Symbiosis International but is now handed over to them; to be managed completely by Padma. 

The Journey

In 2005, Symbiosis conducted community surveys in the Gazipur district. In the months that followed, the organisation began encouraging women to join together as a group and undertake a functional education course with Symbiosis field workers. The course ran over 8-months and introduced members to savings and other education topics affecting their lives.

Symbiosis Bangladesh worked with us focusing on 6 themes – education, participation and cooperation, health, environment, social and income growth.”
– Padma Mohila Unnayan Samiti Secretary, Marufa Kareem

In July 2008, Padma CBO officially formed together from a collective of savings groups and by April 2016, they applied and were successful with their registration application to the Directorate of Women’s affairs within the Bangladesh Government. Their size, function, membership has changed over the years to become the current organisation as it presently functions.

“[At one stage] Padma CBO had 29 societies affiliated with 557 members. It was becoming difficult for us to take care of the 557 members of these 29 associations, so Padma CBO was formed [split]  into 4 area-based CBOs with the help of the organization (Symbiosis). Currently Padma CBO has 9 associations and the number of members is 175 and Padma CBO is being managed through an executive committee consisting of 9 members”.
-Padma Mohila Unnayan Samiti Secretary, Marufa Kareem
In their own words

It’s hard to express what the culmination of Padma’s journey means to us as an organisation. We think our feelings are best described by the women who have learned and stepped forward to change their lives and in doing so have changed their families and communities. Below are some excerpts from the speeches made on the day of graduation by the leadership of Padma.

“ Today’s program seems like a dream. Because if we compare with many NGOs working in our area, we can understand that they only do loan activities but [it’s] the opposite of Symbiosis, they make us self-reliant. [We] learn to stand on our own feet. We never thought that we would be honoured like this. We have now received registration from Gazipur District Directorate of Women Affairs. Today we have the ability to communicate with government and private departments. The ability to speak has been acquired”
Padma Mohila Unnayan Samiti Secretary, Marufa Kareem
“We started association activities since 2005. We have deposited Tk.2 in the beginning now we deposit Tk.50/- and above. Many of us were afraid to deposit this 2 taka. If the money is embezzled and left. Because many people in our area took money in the name of NGOs. Due to this many of us have suffered a lot financially. So we lost faith in NGOs.

But no, we can proudly say, Symbiosis NGO is totally different. Symbiosis makes us associations. But Symbiosis workers do not try to take our money. [We] formed a 5-member committee within the association as per the fixed term, where the association is managed by the president, cashier, secretary and 2 working members. The money of the society is maintained by the cashier of the society. Symbiosis encourages us to do income-generating activities. We invest the society’s money in income-generating activities among our members”.
Padma Mohila Unnayan Samiti Treasurer, Rima Akhter
“Today we will have a commitment that we will work for the development of society – we are all social builders. We will try to make our work remembered by the next generation and take the lead of this organization. Let it survive better even if we are not there.”
Padma Mohila Unnayan Samiti President, Sharifa Khatun
With special thanks

Honour and respect to the Symbiosis Bangladesh team, lead by Country Director Dr Abdur Rahman, who have championed the process to Graduation for CBOs.

A special mention must also go to the Gazipur Integrated Community Development Project Manager, Farida Yeasmin, and her team who have walked most closely with Padma over many years.

Share this post!

Working Together for Good

Scroll to Top
Skip to content