Zonta's District Governor Naheed Moyeen remembers an incident that had a significant impact on her life.
One night the family was woken up to the sound of a thief breaking in. They caught him but Naheed's grandmother intervened and questioned him as to why he was stealing. The intruder had replied that he was poor and stole to feed his family. To the utter amazement of the family she extracted from him a promise not to steal again and then had given him some money. Eventually he was helped to establish his own business.
"This incident had a huge impact on me," says Naheed, currently District Governor of Zonta District 25 which consists of India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka talking to the Sunday Times during her visit this week to Sri Lanka. The good example set by the elders of her family and especially her grandmother directed her to venture into the path of social service.
Zonta International, a global organization of women with more than 31, 000 members in 63 countries seeks to uplift the status of women worldwide through service and advocacy.
The charismatic Bangladeshi, has contributed much towards the upliftment of the status of women in her country. Living with a big family of around 35 cousins under one roof taught her to be selfless and helps her immensely in her work where she has to deal with many people, she said.
Hailing from an aristocratic background, Naheed was married at the age of 18. However, soon realising that she did not want to be confined to the home, this mother of four teamed up with her sister-in-law and started her own enterprise. Their clothes boutique was soon a success and currently she owns an exclusive store in Bangladesh which employs around 300 workers and serves about 1000 customers a month.
Naheed speaks of the joy on the faces of some orphans whom she had taught to sew and embroider, when they received the sales proceeds of their work. This too encouraged her to work towards ensuring the financial independence and general wellbeing of women.
Zonta clubs in Sri Lanka work with much enthusiasm towards improving the status of women in the island, focusing on areas such as career guidance, financial independence for women and education. They also work to uplift the standard of living of differently abled women.
The Zonta Club 2 of Colombo chose the Sukitha Vocational Training Centre for women with special needs as its flagship project for 2010-2012 and onwards. Sukitha is partly supported by the Ministry of Social Services in order to provide basic vocational training and life skills such as agriculture, weaving, hair-dressing and beauty culture, sewing and dress-making, bead jewellery making, card making and painting to the women.
"I am here to visit the district, to meet the members and see how it works," said Naheed talking about her visit which she was clearly enjoying. "District 25 is very unique," she added, citing the similarities and differences in culture and heritage. There are four clubs in Sri Lanka and three clubs in India which make up Area one, and five clubs in Bangladesh making up Area two.
Agro-farming and gender-based violence are their main focus for the next biennium.