Romina Dewan: Making difference in society silently
Romina Dewan was called "Florence Nightingale" by some of her friends for her enthusiasm to help others during the University days. The "Florence Night Angle" actually comes from famed personality Florence Nightingale who was an English social reformer and statistician, and the founder of modern nursing. Her friends might jokingly compare her with Florence Nightingale but they were preciously right. Romina Dewan really dedicates her life to help others and it was one of the reasons she took NGO field as her profession, from which she could directly involve to bring up a quality change.
She is the Executive Director of Livelihood Education and Development Services (LEADS) Foundation. Her tremendous experience over 20 years in the field of education sector and passion to serve people were the reasons for the inception of her own NGO, which works in an incredibly innovative way to support the school going government primary school poor children mainly emphasizing the values based curriculum for sustainable and quality education and to reduce drop out.
"I didn't aim to start an NGO from the beginning but always wanted to help others through whatever knowledge I had. It gives me flexibility to address different issues as per need. My father was a doctor in the Armed Forces and mother from a very affluent family but they always helped people. I was encouraged by them. In that way, after aging a long experience, I thought to use my skills my own way and make a difference in the society through Individual Social Responsibility (ISR) within my financial and monitoring capacity. I wanted to add quality to what children learnt in schools and helped them to be a good human being. May be I don't earn money but gain satisfaction end of the day," Romina Dewan said in an exclusive interview with The Daily Observer.
"Even though I give 80 per cent of my time to my NGO to ensure quality but I do short term consultancy works to enhance my skills and enhance others with my experience and knowledge. I am working as a part-time Linguistic Editor for CEGIS, a Public Trust under the Ministry of Water Resources."
She was a student of Holy Cross School and College and did her Master's in Public Administration from Dhaka University. All throughout her career she worked in International organizations like USAID, Enfants du Monde, Intervida, DFID as Education Manager etc. She is also well reputed for writing articles in renowned journals where she expresses her opinion on different current issues with her versatile knowledge in different fields besides education.
For her contribution and tremendous success in different sectors, she also achieved 2 international awards. She was honoured with "Women Super Achiever Award" by Femina at the fourth World Women Leadership Congress (WWLC) held in Mumbai, India on February 17. Femina honoured the strategic and influential role of women leaders who are contributing to the development of economy and technology and promoting the advancement of the government and business organizations.
World Women Leadership Congress and Awards conferred "Women Leadership Achievement Award" on her at Taj Land End Mumbai on February 14, 2015 also. The Award was conferred to the "Outstanding Women Professionals who have the vision, flair, acumen and professionalism to demonstrate excellent leadership and management skills in an organization.
Through her foundation, Livelihood Education And Development Services, Romina is providing sustainable education and healthcare facilities through different awareness and education support programmes for school children, especially underprivileged children enrolled in different government schools in Bangladesh. The first and foremost goal of LEADS is to reduce the drop out and to ensure quality education and thus to contribute to the society through the after school support.
She said, "We ensure educational and health support to the children as these are interdependent and for these 2 reasons children mainly drop out from schools, if not ensured. For their safe health we send them to public hospitals, paying 80 per cent of their health cost. We provide uniforms, shoes, raincoats, books, etc as per need which encourage them to go to school and stay."
"We ensure joyful learning through curriculum based drama, role play, dialogue from text book and emphasize values based learning through Learning by Reflecting. We also send street children to schools as it is their right to go to public school and government has given the facilities."
Apart from looking after her NGO, she devotes her major time doing short term consultancy work. She did many consultancy works in all the cross cutting issues of development field keeping education as its base. Well reputed International, National organizations which got support from these consultancies are, Action Aid Bangladesh, Acid Survivors Foundation, Arannayak Foundation, Bangladesh Environment Lawyers Association ( BELA), DFID ,Department of Primary Education( DPE) Department of Women Affairs, Leprosy Mission Bangladesh Manusher Jonno Foundation, NIPORT, Oxfam Novib, UNESCO , UNFPA , UNDP and TIB Bangladesh etc.
Her works also includes facilitating workshops and organizing trainings, reviewing projects, analyzing data, developing logical framework etc. She also developed a handbook "Learning by Reflecting" for the School teachers as a fellow of SIDA ESD Programme in Sweden taking environmental issues from the curriculum to make teaching learning joyful and to make the children aware about the environment and resources. She also developed 3 modules for Department of Women Affairs, Women Training Centres.
She identified some problems of Education Sector.
"There is little scope to reflect on the learning from school text book and implement the learned knowledge, for example, singing national anthem daily in the schools but little scope to love their own country as they do not go deep into it and throw rubbish and spit here and there, waste water etc," she said.
"Children are running after coaching centres whether it is GO or NGO schools as there is too much pressure in their studies. The families cannot take the pressure of the teaching load. On the other hand, the poor families' parents cannot give academic support as they are not literate which push them to coaching centers or pull them out from schools to earn. There is also no scope of curriculum based activities to sustain their knowledge." Romina also gave some ideas as to how those problems could be quelled.
"Teachers should not teach for the sake of teaching rather teach for the children's learning. That's why it is called Teaching and Learning ( Shihkon Shikhano ) not only Teaching. Give children scope to check their understanding level. Dig out the morals from the text book and emphasize on it."
"Ask them once a week or month what they have learnt and what they have implemented. Give them responsibility to take care of their school, environment and family and share with others and ask them to change their behavior."
Community Service should be made mandatory in all the private and English medium schools so students can teach the poor children of government run school voluntarily to learn from each other. We are already doing this with some English Schools like Sunnydale.
Besides her dedication towards her NGO and short term work she also organizes events and awareness programme on Environmental and other issues as part of her consultancies. One of the major Environmental programmes was organizing SAARC HAVEERU Coastal Awareness Festival for school children in 2012 in Bangladesh with the support from SAARC Coastal Zone Management Centre Maldives. Her diehard interest on environment has encouraged her to work with the school children on "Our Environment, Our Resource" to change the children's everyday practice with an aim to combat climate change and save national resources.
Alongside her work she gives her quality time to her family with a husband, a senior retired government official and 2 daughters. One is a doctor and another is studying engineering both from public universities. They have always been an inspiration to her work and supported her in need.
After all those works, she also manages her family nicely but how it's possible?
"It is tough but if you ensure and address every family members need as much as possible it is easier to get their support. You sometimes don't need to be physically present. Give quality time to your family and be the role model if you have to teach your children and family members," she said.
Her mantra on women empowerment is straightforward and simple. "Do whatever you know and have separate identity and don't depend on others. To learn and empower yourself never say no to any work. Start a work, face problem, learn from that and others and develop yourself."
She however left message for all: "Be confident, positive minded and proud of yourself whatever you do. Help others without expecting a return and own the work you do, God will help you. Do the right thing even when no one is watching!"