Thengamara Mahila Sabuj Sangha

Thengamara Mahila Sabuj Sangha (TMSS) is a national level NGO, which is working for poverty alleviation, socioeconomic development and empowerment of women. It has developed from a very insignificant organisation to one of the largest women NGOs in Bangladesh. It was initially formed in 1964 by a group of begging women organised by Fatema Bewa and Jomela Bewa, two regular beggars of the village Thengamara in the district of Bogra. In addition to begging, Fatema Bewa used to render domestic services to Abdul Mazid, the local social welfare officer, who convinced her to give up begging. She organised the beggars of the locality and started to regularly save a 'handful of rice' out of what they gathered by begging from door to door. The saved rice was sold in the market and the sale proceeds were accumulated to make a common fund. To collect the savings the beggars formed several groups, each containing 10 to 20 of them. The members of these groups developed a practice of meeting together, when their husbands were away, to discuss their affairs. The news about their activities spread over the surrounding localities. Soon after the liberation of Bangladesh, 14 such women groups were formed in 6 villages.

Initially, the members of these groups used to deposit their collection with someone reliable and trustworthy. Soon they found a leader Professor Hosne-Ara Begum of Bogra Mahila College to organise them. A 21-member committee was formed for managing the organistion consisting of 226 general members. They collected about 8 tons of rice. Gradually, they registered their groups as a non government organisation committed to the development of the safety net of the poor and distressed women. Under the leadership of Professor Hosne-Ara Begum, it became one of the largest women NGOs in Bangladesh within a short period of time.

Belief in human potential and human dignity, achieving self-reliance with community support guide the activities of the Tehengamara Mahila Sabuj Sangha. It is the first organisation in the country to initiate development from the bottom of the society.

In 1999, the TMSS operated in 342 unions of 88 upazilas in 17 districts. Its programme has been operative in 2,475 villages. The number of beneficiaries had been 268,200 families in target group approach and 3,200,000 families in community approach. Its head office is 6 km north of Bagura city on the Bagura-Rangpur highway. It has 12 training centres. Its field activities are managed by 18 area offices and 88 branch offices. It members are mostly illiterate and economically highly marginal women who are either entirely landless or marginally landed, owning below 0.05 acres of land. The TMSS is mainly involved in activities such as training, empowerment of women, women institution building, human resource development, environment development, human rights establishment, entrepreneurship development, education, health and family planning, gender relation and development of agriculture, fisheries and forestry. The TMSS's objective is to restore social and economic balance in the society and place women in equal partnership with men. [M Wazed Ali]