All-Female Health Seminars for Minorities in Michigan

December 15, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

By Nargis Rahman, TMO

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The audience listens to the 2nd lecture in a series at the the women’s health seminar on breast and cervical cancer.     

Photo by Subha Hanif

Hamtramck, Michigan– Bangladeshi Americans for Social Empowerment, a non-profit group in Michigan, will host a health seminar in Hamtramck on osteoporosis in January for minority women.

Project Coordinator, Subha Hanif of Rochester Hills said, the seminars are a continuation of a project started in October for Bangladeshi women. Women from Hamtramck, Detroit, Warren and Sterling Heights in Michigan were invited.

Many of these women are uninsured or do not have a regular doctor, said Hanif, based on women who attended these seminars. The seminars are available to other minority women who may fall into the same categories. Hanif said, “It’s not helping in any way if people are not coming.”

Two seminars have been held in Hamtramck, at Jalalabad (above Aladdin Sweets & Café), which has the largest population of Bangladeshi Americans in Michigan, roughly three percent of the city’s total population.

Participant Razia Begum of Detroit said she liked the program. Everyone benefitted from the program by learning about free health care, she said.

Hanif, an undergraduate biology major at Oakland University, who is a Bangladeshi American said she understands the needs and limitations of women from this culture. Women are traditionally shy, “overshadowed” by men, and unlikely to ask important questions regarding their health.

The seminars are female-oriented, including the doctors, to form a comfortable no-men environment, said Hanif. “In a room where men are not allowed, women have embraced the freedom [to ask questions].”

Doctors from Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine spoke at the seminars, which ranged from taking care of your health, to learning how to detect breast and pelvic cancer. Hanif translated in Bangla.

Begum said she looks forward to the next program. “I want to go in January to learn about tooth pain and bone problems.”

Participants can talk one-on-one with doctors after the seminars; something which Hanif said is not always available at free clinics that have limited time slots for patients.

Hanif’s passion to help others comes from her Muslim faith, parental encouragement, interest in public health, and community service. My parents allowed American assimilation, while retaining the Bangladeshi culture, she said. “We were only allowed to speak Bangla at home, which has motivated me to help Bangladeshis.”

She hopes minority women – who are insured or uninsured – bring their mothers, daughters and neighbors to bond and learn together. “The goal is to make women better agents in taking care of their health and the family’s,” said Hanif.

BASE provides laptops, handouts and materials for the program. Hanif’s dad, Abu Hanif, is on the board of directors.

Flyers will be passed out to businesses in Hamtramck before January’s program.

For more information, contact Subha Hanif by phone at 248-707-9521 or email shanif@oakland.edu .

Pictures: Subha Hanif

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Travels from Bangladesh

December 8, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nargis Rahman, TMO

Lush green trees amid debris, pollution and beggars surrounded Shah Jalal International Airport in Dhaka, Bangladesh, my husband, two-year-old son and I went for an 18-day vacation to visit family two weeks ago. We clung close to our luggage and airport authorities who guided us through the crowd to a Kuwait rented bus that would take us home to Sylhet, Bangladesh.

As the air-conditioned (a luxury in the country) battered bus jerked back and forth and the driver blared the horn through the seven-hour journey, my husband and I cradled our son and braced ourselves for possible accidents. The sky was grey and the cars, rikshaws, and even cows jammed the streets.

Two men dressed in all-black uniforms, do-rags and sunglasses, the Rapid Action Battalion authority similar to the FBI in the US, zoomed past us in a vehicle similar to a pick-up truck. I tensed at their sight. RAB nicknamed the “death squad” by humanitarian groups killed nearly 130 people last year (as of January 2011) to the UK-based newspaper The Guardian.
A mile into the village where my husband was born, 30 people came out to greet us and led us to my father-in-law’s eight bedroom cement home nicknamed “America” by the neighbors. To them we were wealthy.

Bangladesh is known for its poverty. For two weeks we lived removed from the luxuries of a computer, television, heat, and a car. We relied on relatives to set-up trips, execute financial decisions from what to eat to where to shop, and how to interact with the villagers.

The village was unlike the city, with clean air and the wind blowing through grapefruit, coconut, shathkhora (a citrus fruit), and bitternut (used for chewing) trees. Rice fields, grass and vegetation were spread between far-out buildings. Adults and kids bathed in man-made ponds, also used for washing clothes and cooking water. 

While the country seemed busy and quiet from the political rumble, posters of war crime prisoners charged by the Bangladesh War Crimes Tribunal were put-up in town centers and major road crossings. Five Jamaat-e-Islami and two Bangladesh National Party political leaders have been arrested and one, Delwar Hossain Sayedee, formally charged for crimes against humanity during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War. His trial began November 21.

A cousin would joke of the Bangladesh Awami League meetings in the village, while he passed out literature of those who died during Jamaat-e-Islami crossfires with police, or fights with the student groups of the major political parties Bangladesh Awami League (AL) and Bangladesh National Party (BNP) on college campuses.

As I looked out into the river behind our home in Bangladesh two days before our journey back to the US, the still water gave me a vision of a brighter future for a country torn between the rich and poor, right and wrong, and past and future.

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