Shomy receiving the Diana Award, a prestigious Legacy Award in memory of Princess Diana, for her work to ensure clean water and sanitation through Awareness 360.Shomy ChowdhuryIn the span of 24 hours, over 70,000 lives were changed, following the death of one healthy Bangladeshi woman.
It all started with her daughter, Shomy Hasan Chowdhury.
In 2014, on Bengali New Year’s Day, Shomy’s mother came home from work with diarrhea from eating street food. She passed away suddenly after 24 hours.
“We had no idea that it could take someone’s life,” said Chowdhury. “It was a huge shock for me and my family. I did some research and I found out that it's not just my mother, that there are about 45,000 people who die from diarrhea every year in Bangladesh only. It's not a problem limited to Bangladesh. It’s a global issue.”
The circumstance of Chowdhury’s mother’s death was the catalyst that prompted Chowdhury to initiate a series of life-altering services for her community.
“I feel like it's my duty to really go out there and talk about it [sanitation],” said Chowdhury. “At that moment, I felt like--what I’m going through right now I don’t want anybody else to go through. It was really my time to step up and take action.”
Merely four days after her mother’s passing, Chowdhury arranged her first water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) talk within the Untouchable community centered in the middle of her hometown.
“These people, they are working with sewage and are completely cut off from the rest of the world--even though they are situated in the middle of the town,” explained Chowdhury. “These are the people who need to know about sanitation, hygiene, first. That’s why I started with this location for my first WASH talk.”
When questioned by her relatives about her decision to start her advocacy career so soon after her mother’s death, Chowdhury feelings remained unaltered.
“I felt like I have to do this now, if not now then when? Then I did the WASH talk and I could see the response! They didn’t know how to wash their hands properly and they didn’t know anything about menstrual hygiene,” said Chowdhury. “Although it was hard--I was going through a lot at the time, I was really happy too (that I did it), because I felt that it made an impact. I never stopped, I kept doing it. I reach out to other communities.”
Shomy speaking about Awareness360 at the EMK CenterShomy ChowdhuryChowdhury has been working with the WASH program for about six years. She co-founded an organization called Awareness360, which sponsors groups of passionate individuals to reach out to various communities and talk about the importance of sanitation and hygiene.
“We are still growing and are currently operating in 23 different countries,” said Chowdhury. “We have worked with schoolchildren, sex workers--we went to brothels--worked with people of different disabilities, reached out to slums. We try to reach out to as many people as we can. So far we have benefited about 70,000 people, raising awareness about WASH.”
Currently, Chowdhury is working on collaborating with other WASH organizations and creating a team that branches out to more communities, educating these communities on WASH.
“In Bangladesh, prostitution is legal, and there are 20 legal brothels. So far, we have visited two of them and the rest of the 18 we want to visit as well. We are trying to raise funds and grants to cover the other brothels, and we visit every six months to follow up to check whether they are actually following what they learned or not,” explained Chowdhury. “In Malaysia we are going to work with the orang asli community. The orang asli community are the native Malays. They are very much secluded, and so we are working on a WASH talk for them as well.”
Chowdhury represents her country, Bangladesh, within the Global Citizen organizationShomy ChowdhuryChowdhury represents the WASH movement within multiple organizations, including Global Citizens, Commonwealth Students’ Association, Global Changemakers, etc.
When noting how far her WASH journey has taken her, Chowdhury remarked, “There is so much more I can do, and there is so much more to be done.”
Page created on 1/7/2020 6:00:04 PM
Last edited 10/9/2023 4:11:59 PM
- Chowdhury's organization, Awareness360, focuses on championing the WASH movement within the context of Quality Education, Women Empowerment, Poverty Eradication, Gender Equality, Youth Leadership, etc.