The Spreeha Foundation of Bangladesh

In Bangladesh, millions of children are living in poverty without any assistance. That is where the nonprofit organization, Spreeha Bangladesh Foundation, comes in and fulfills its mission. Spreeha greatly supports Bangladeshi children; the organization uses creative solutions to empower people to reach their full potential.

One Spreeha-run program that guarantees support for Bangladeshi girls is called Progga. The program is meant to empower young girls with important life skills, especially leadership values. Approximately 13.7 million Bangladeshi girls feel disorganized and vulnerable during their adolescent years and are lacking the correct guidance. Those who go without counsel are more likely to perform poorly or drop out of school. Additionally, they have a higher risk of mental and physical abuse. This inevitably leads to lower possibilities of female representation in leadership positions.

Spreeha’s solution is to motivate young Bangladeshi girls to become leaders through an interactive method. Progga groups educate young girls on how to make proper judgments that enhance their socio-economic situations and overall security. They achieve this goal by encouraging awareness of developmental changes in Bangladesh. They mentor young girls using group collaboration with speech and debate which develop their leadership skills and improve their self-confidence.

COVID Complications

The Covid-19 pandemic has made life hard to bear, especially for children in Bangladesh. Thankfully, Spreeha has developed solutions to combat the crisis. Doctors and healthcare workers make up the primary components of the organization. They engage in door-to-door visits, providing counsel and consciousness to the community. It also informs the community on how to prevent infections during the pandemic. In an attempt to support Bangladeshi children, Spreeha has helped prevent infection by temporarily shutting down the before and after-school programs, as well as adolescent girls’ clubs. Urban populated areas of Bangladesh are very dense, therefore they are more susceptible to coronavirus. The young children are unaware of how dangerous the virus is, which is why Spreeha is working tirelessly to make sure they are safe. With the economy in disarray, the daily wage-earning Bengali workers have been affected. Spreeha urges the communities to stay together during these uncertain times.

How It Began

Tazin Shahid is the founder of the Spreeha Bangladesh Foundation. He desires to help more Bangladeshi people and ensure that Spreeha can support the children. Along with education and job training services, Spreeha has developed a business incubator called Spreeha Studios. The company promotes startup companies. These services have helped over 125,000 people, including business owners with families. Prior to the founding of Spreeha, Shahid worked for Microsoft. This profession pushed him to contact one million people by the start of the new decade. He accomplished this by “hitting refresh”, meaning to start anew in a world with less poverty. According to Shahid, the first stage of Spreeha involved ending the succession of poverty. The second was to shatter social obstacles. Finally, the third involves encouraging people to follow whatever dreams and desires they possess.

The organization began in 2011 when Shahid still worked for Microsoft. He yearned to build a world where those living in poverty can be inspired to improve their lives. At first, Spreeha was a small transportable health clinic with only one doctor and very little medicine. Early on, the funding came from Shahid’s Microsoft companions. The medical center was generous enough to aid 10,000 – 20,000 people in two provinces.

Eventually, Spreeha was reworked to include many other ways to help Bangladeshi families. The Bangladeshi children received affordable health care from the Sneho Diagnostic Center as well as medical diagnoses from the mobile Amar Lab. New ventures included the aforementioned leadership program, Progga, and the early childhood development and daycare center for children and education center for mothers, the Udoy Center. Shahid has reached his objective of helping one million people by providing education to 3,669 children, in addition to 65,119 receiving health care and 68,033 gaining counseling.

The Overall Mission

The CEO of Spreeha, Ferdouse Oneza, spoke with The Borgen Project. He says, “Our mission is to break the cycle of poverty. We look at the root causes of poverty. Right now we have a clinic in Bangladesh as well as pre and after-school programs. We educate them for fun and teach them social skills”. With the pandemic, issues have worsened. Spreeha continues to create safe spaces for the less fortunate. It is a pivotal reason why the communities of Bangladesh are still intact. One issue of safety Bangladeshi children face is the legalization of child marriage. Girls in Bangladesh are in danger of being forced into arranged marriages with a significantly older man. Millions of these girls are under the age of 15. This is currently legal, as there is a loophole in the Child Marriage Restraint Act.

Ferdouse Oneza stated that the way Spreeha addresses child marriage is, “Raising awareness of the issue. Educating the children. Counseling with parents, go door to door. One of our girls was working for Spreeha but was engaged to someone way older than her. She dropped out of her university but after some campaigning, she was allowed to finish her education first and then get married. During the pandemic, a lot of families are moving to the villages. This puts the girls at risk because they don’t have the Spreeha service so their parents marry them off”. The nonprofit is unable to engage in policymaking, such as the Borgen Project. The Bengali government doesn’t abide by changes. Regardless, Spreeha supports Bangladeshi children through active community involvement and inspiring individuals to be better.

Shalman Ahmed
Photo: Flickr