In Bangladesh, the rate of breast cancer occurrence is estimated to be 22.5 per 100,000 females of all ages, compared to 124.8 per 100,000 females worldwide. Sharmin’s mother also died of Breast cancer in 2014. She believes early detection of breast cancer can save lives of many women. She has been trying to raise awareness about breast cancer all by herself but alone she could not reach as many people as she desired. She was given a new hope and a network of enthusiastic young people when she joined Active Citizens Youth Leadership training organised at Jahangirnagar University. After completing her training, she with her batch mates initiated a social action project called 'Awareness Building Against Breast Cancer'.
14 Active Citizens consisting of students from Public Administration and International Relation Department launched the project after coming up with a realistic plan with the help of their mentors and facilitators. They started with a vision to aware at least 200 people within six months. Their main objective was to encourage women to self-screen and see a doctor in case of any abnormality because early detection can save their lives.
'Awareness Building Against Breast Cancer' team has conducted seven campaigns so far. They shared information with students of Jahangirnagar University regarding breast cancer. They have visited five departments of the university so far. They have informed 400 students about breast cancer which is beyond their initial target. After conveying such important information, they are confident that these students will aware more people on their own accord.
Breast cancer is a culturally sensitive topic to talk about in the communities of Bangladesh. The students they approached shied away at first after knowing that the campaign was on breast cancer. Especially male students were the most hesitant and said they had no business to learn about breast cancer. Comments like these restricted other male students to join at first though some of them were interested in the campaign. With firm determination, Sharmin’s team has been dealing with challenges like this. When the male students were asked if they wanted to learn how to save their mothers or sisters from dying of breast cancer, it grew a sense of responsibility which motivated them to join and learn from the campaign.
The British Council and one of the implementing partners, The Hunger Project, have been supporting their team in this project which makes them more confident about their work. Sharmin was selected to represent 'Awareness Building Against Breast Cancer' project at an International Visit in the UK this year. 20 participants from seven countries joined on this learning journey. They were interested in learning more about this project so that they can the take similar initiative in their respective countries. This project and the indomitable determination of her team members were praised by everyone at the international study visit. They are more motivated to continue this project.
Sharmin and her team have plans to conduct awareness raising workshop at schools and colleges. With such campaigns, they want to create advocates for this project who will aware people in their network. They aim to aware as many people as possible so that the number of death in women caused by breast cancer comes to zero in Bangladesh.