Bangladeshi Millennial Wins the prestigious Diana Award

Career, People, Travel

Interviewed by Faria Ahmed

Even with significant progress in women empowerment in Bangladesh, it still remains a social taboo for women to travel to far-off destinations on their own. Religious, family and social restrictions have limited travel and adventure for young, enthusiastic travelers for decades. However, in September 2017, one millennial decided to take action through the creation of an online community for female travelers. We caught up with Sabira Mehrin, the founder of this online travel platform called Wander Woman.

Sabira Mehrin, Founder of Wander Woman
Sabira Mehrin, Founder of Wander Woman

“There was a need for a platform which could bring all female travel enthusiasts together to exchange information and travel together. That is why I started Wander Woman,” explained Sabira Mehrun. “I believed, we women had to cross extra barriers to pursue global opportunities and lacked the courage and confidence required to explore a new destination alone. This is why we needed to hear stories and experiences of avid Bangladeshi women from all around the world to get motivated and step out for change. I started with a closed Facebook group to create a safe space for the like-minded travel enthusiasts”. 


What started off with 200 facebook friends is now an 8,500+ strong community of women travellers who are constantly empowering and supporting one another and lifting up their love for adventure. Over these three years, Sabira has achieved several key milestones, starting with registering Wander Woman as a Travel Company.
She was able to introduce the first ever credit less EMI system on her travel platform, a sim card exchange plan, launched petty currency exchange plan and other incredible ways to make traveling easier for her members.

She even established the WW Academy to teach women skills required for safe adventure traveling, such as swimming, self-defense, etc. In the last three years, Sabira has been able to arrange 20+ trips for women to travel to various parts of Bangladesh and beyond. The WW instagram page is used to promote female travelers of Bangladesh to the world.


“Wander Woman members have been supportive to help with any query placed by other travelers. This has created a trusted peer network where women are coming forward with their first hand experiences in order to help fellow travelers. As a founder of the community, I have been strict about maintaining a positive and non-judgmental environment to ensure that everyone feels safe to share their stories without any fear. I focused on collaboration over competition to show that nothing is more beautiful than women uplifting other women.”


The Diana Award recognizes the young change-makers who are youth-led, inspiring and able to create social impac. Wander woman’s vision to provide access to travel information to women from developing countries has inspired thousands of women to explore global opportunities and new destinations. The Diana Award is the only charity set up to honour Princess Diana of Wales.

“This award is truly special as my late mother was a big follower of Princess Diana and her humanitarian acts. Recognition as her legacy is indeed a worthwhile milestone as an individual as well as organization. We will be receiving mentorship and development programmes recommended by Diana Award organization to further our cause.”

Story of the Travelling Saree: How a young Bangladeshi-Canadian Woman is leaving her ethnic mark everywhere she travels!

People, Travel

Interviewed by Faria Ahmed

Banff, Alberta

Every now and then we come across stories of inspirational women who dare to be different and leave their mark in the way they do things. Such is the story of Nibedita Saha-Chakravorty, a Bangladeshi-Canadian woman living in Toronto, Canada. Nibedita and her husband absolutely love travelling and they make it a point to travel at least a few times a year.

During a trip to Banff, Alberta Nibedita first came up with the idea of wearing a saree (a traditional ethnic Bengali clothing for women) and photograph herself against the gorgeous snowy mountains in Banff. In extreme freezing temperatures, she managed to get photographed against this striking landscape and look incredibly glamorous doing it. A saree is a typically light garment meant to be worn in the tropics and over the centuries it has become the symbol for Bengali women everywhere. Since that day almost 5 years ago, Nibedita took it up as a personal adventure to take photographs of herself against the various terrains and landscapes as she travels the world.

Dubai

“Growing up I always thought I was weird because my ideas were always a bit different from my peers”, said Nibedita. “Assimilation in Canadian society was always encouraged in my family, especially as my parents desperately wanted us to fit in. In my adult life, I realized that my thoughts and desires weren’t necessarily weird but rather they were just different“, she continued. “One of those different ideas I had was to try and take this beautiful symbol of my culture, the saree, to the next level.”

“I’m always thinking about what has not been done before. In general , South Asian countries are hot so probably there aren’t pictures of women wearing them in the snow, I thought. Next I realized that many of our friends and family living in Canada hate snow. I get it..life is difficult”, she said. Nibedita explained how we should sympathize with those who are still struggling to get around in the snow. For so many women who first move to Canada, adjusting to the weather, the culture, the change in clothing…is all part of a very big life change and it can be challenging. They have to give up a big piece of their cultural identities or preference of wearing a saree on a regular basis and only wear it to parties. “Wearing sarees in the snow is quite impractical but I thought it would be fun to take a picture of me wearing a saree in the snow to make the ladies in my community giggle. That idea started my crazy journey.”

Cuba

Although the initial thought behind it was a humorous one, she soon also realized how powerful and empowering it could be do to this. “In the Bengali community, many women are afraid to dream or vocally say what they want because traditionally women have been groomed to be care takers and support systems”. Nibedita explained how Bengali women are often expected to make bold sacrifices and their own wishes and dreams are often sidelined in the process. However, she wants to show the world that while being her most bengali self, wearing a saree, she can climb a mountain and walk in sand all the same. She wants to do it literally and metaphorically to help break barriers for Bengali women, so we can be comfortable in our own skin and ethnic garments and still be proud and confident enough to take on the world.

Ontario

She wants to tell everyone that if something is a part of our cultural identity, we do not need to tuck it away. It is something that adds strength to our lives and lived experiences and should be celebrated.

Most Challenging Saree-Photo Venture:

“I think the hardest for me was Dubai. The desert seemed limitless to me, and I was but a grain of sand in the vast desert sea. The dunes were hot and I kept sinking wherever I stood. The wind was so exceptionally strong, I felt if I let go of my saree, it will disappear. I felt fear and excitement. Something was all around me and it was trying to take me with it.

Most Fun Saree-Photo Venture:

My most fun experience was during my graduation. I was the only person who wore a saree at my graduation from the University of Toronto that year. I loved explaining the idea to everyone who asked about it and I loved showing up on campus in a saree as compared to other days where my hair would be in a bun and I’d be in sweatpants lugging around chemistry and physics books.

Traveled So Far:

Bangladesh: Dhaka, Sylhet, Chittagong India: Kolkata, Sikkim, Orissa, Darjeeling, Kashmir
Greece, Dubai, Nepal, Paris, London UK, Belize City
US: Florida, Utah, Las Vegas, California, West
Cayman Islands, Jamaica, Mexico, Cuba, Virginia, North and South Carolina, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey Canada: Alberta, Ontaro

Travel Bucket List for the Future:

Australia (Great Barrier Reef), Egypt, Amazon Basin, Rain Forest

Travels in the near future: I would love to travel within Canada (somewhere in the Maritimes and Vancouver).