09 Feb Promoting Healing for Herself and Others
Growing up in Rajshahi, Bangladesh, Munmun used to dream of being a pilot or perhaps a mathematician. She wasn’t sure exactly what she wanted to do, but Munmun’s family wished nothing more than for Munmun to become a doctor or an engineer. Determined to be a good role model for her younger sister and brother, she warmed to the idea and started to envision a future for herself as a successful doctor.
“My siblings say I’m more strict than my parents. Maybe I am, but I really love and adore them. I just want to set the right example for them.”
Munmun set to her studies with medical school in sight, but in a twist of fate she was accepted to Asian University for Women (AUW). AUW is an independent, international university in Chittagong, Bangladesh that educates new generations of future leaders. She is currently in her second year majoring in Public Health with a minor in Development Studies. Despite her family’s concerns, Munmun said that going to AUW was a transformative decision in her leadership journey.
“I think the decision to not pursue medical school reflected my belief that people evolve. Just because I wanted something at one point, and my family wanted it for me as well, doesn’t mean it needs to define my future. I wanted to be a doctor, but now I want to make an even greater impact.”
Munmun says that as a doctor she could impact a thousand lives, two thousand — maybe even more — throughout her professional career, but her vision for impact is one of scale.
“I feel I can help people on a larger scale – it’s not only to help individuals but entire communities, the country, or the world.”
Leadership Lessons: Fear and Perseverance
One of her life’s greatest challenges presented itself in the form of a phone call just as she was completing her first year at AUW.
“I remember the call well. My mom called and I instantly knew something was wrong – you can always tell when someone you love is struggling, can’t you? She was silent then started crying. ‘I’m going to die,’ she said.”
Nearly a year after Munmun challenged her family’s wish for her to be a doctor, her mother became severely ill. The doctor said her hemoglobin levels had dropped to dangerous levels and wouldn’t make it unless she received an immediate blood transfusion. Munmun was the only compatible donor that her family knew of, yet her school was a 14 hour bus ride away from her hometown and blood banks weren’t an option.
With little time and the odds against her, Munmun jumped on the phone with everyone she could think of. Phone call after phone call, she contacted everyone she could think of and in turn asked them to do the same. She eventually found a compatible donor through a series of connections in her community.
When asked how this experience affected her, Munmun said, “It taught me how to take initiative, how to be in charge, and how to face fear. It’s normal to be afraid when you face uncertainty. I’ve learned that nothing can be achieved by worrying about the end result’s uncertainty, but focusing on the problem and how to solve it can make all the difference. Now, I think about the process and how that’s going to change me.”
When reflecting on the past two years at school, Munmun said with confidence that she’s not the same person she was when she first set foot on campus. She is a Rising Star in Wedu’s Leadership Development Program, the Vice President of the Mental Health and Wellbeing club and has been invited to attend two prestigious international conferences as a result of her exceptional work.
“A lot of the things I’ve done since coming here have required courage, perseverance, and most importantly initiative. These aren’t the kinds of opportunities I would have pursued two years ago — I was afraid and uncertain of my abilities. I’ve had to face down a lot of my fears to arrive to where I am today.”
A Mentor in the Making- Family Impact and Influence
Munmun no longer simply dreams – she takes ownership of her future. After overcoming her fears, embracing uncertainty, and learning the benefits of being part of AUW’s and Wedu’s international communities, Munmun vigorously strives to be the next best version of herself. Attending AUW and being exposed to new international perspectives is a landmark in Munmun’s journey and has motivated her to meet more incredible people all the time.
Through self-motivation and passion in furthering knowledge about global health, Munmun conducted her own research project concerning menstruation in Bangladesh. Although this subject is highly stigmatized by men and women alike in Bangladesh, Munmun fearlessly took the opportunity to present it worldwide. As a result, Munmun was recently selected to be a delegate for the Harvard Project for Asian and International Relations, Harvard University’s largest annual student connection to Asia.
Reflecting on her accomplishments and struggles throughout our conversation, Munmun realized she has begun to extend her leadership to another family member: her 17 year-old little sister.
When discussing Munmun’s mentor, Nicky, she said that “I think a mentor’s purpose is to bring out that potential to the spotlight – kind of finding it out from the mentees… I also think a mentor’s purpose is to inspire and motivate the mentee and help them face challenges.”
With Munmun’s traumatic experience in saving her mother’s life and ambitious research project, she has since converted her feelings of fear and has developed them into feelings of self-motivation and passion. Although she is going to continue pursuing her degree at AUW, she is helping her little sister assume/take on larger responsibilities for her family at home. Despite the pressure of maintaining both her family life and educational path, Munmun has gained immense potential in finding her own self-confidence and inspiring/building it in others.
Through open-mindedness and communication, Munmun recognizes that her little sister may be fearful for the future. However, she acknowledges and assures her sister that she has the potential to grow and can become resilient to any anxieties that may arise.
“A lot of responsibility has been placed on her now that I’m gone because I used to make decisions for her. She’s at a place now where she wants to (and needs to) take on more responsibility of her life, but I sense that she can be intimidated by the new responsibility at times. I used to think I needed to protect her from everything and I was perhaps a bit controlling. I still feel the same but the way I act on it has changed. In a way, it reflects my relationship with Nicky – she’s always given me the space to explore my options and make my own decisions, but she’s always been there to support me. I let my sister explore her own path and there’s a subtle difference in the way she shares her life with me now. I’ve never really thought about it until now, but I’m extremely grateful to have Nicky as a Mentor, and it’s really special to see Nicky’s subtle influence affect the world around me.”
Munmun has created a wave of change within herself and her personal relationships. She has shifted her relationships positively within her family- both physically and mentally. Similar to her own mentor, Munmun paved the way for inspiring, captivating, and motivating others – ultimately creating a chain of compassion.