The Founder

Early life & Education

Prof. Dr. Hosne-Ara Begum's native home is located in Thengamara village near Mahasthangarh in Bogura district, which is also known as the cultural capital of South Asia stemming from the ancient civilization of the Pundra Kingdom (Sanskrit: Puṇḍravardhana). She was born in the village of Mahishgopal in Nanabari Bogura and her parents were Mr. Solaiman Ali Paikar and Ms. Zobaida Begum. Prof. Dr. Begum has experienced life both as a young man and as a woman giving her a unique view of the society from both gender perspectives. She was brought up as a male named Abdus Samad until 1975 where at the age of 23 while studying at Rajshahi University she undergone a complete sex reassignment surgery and transformed as a female changing her name to Hosne-Ara Begum. These unique circumstances contributed to Prof. Dr.Begum’s acute sensitivity to prejudice against women solely on the basis of their gender. She is married to Professor Ansar Ali, who was a school and university classmate of Prof. Dr. Begum. They are blessed with an off spring, Mr. Md. T.M. Ali Haider, a well-known and established entrepreneur and social business elite in Bangladesh who is leading Building Construction Limited (BCL) Group.
Since her youth, Prof. Dr. Begum excelled at learning. She attended Baghopara Government Primary School until the third grade. The following year enrolled at Gokul Taslim Uddin High School in fourth grade. She completed her graduation from the then-Government Shah Sultan College and was enrolled to Rajshahi University where she completed her undergraduate studies and also obtained Master's degree in Botany with a merit in 1975.. Her thesis on Diolel Cross of Brachica Campustrees under Biometrical genetics was published in the agricultural research publication B. Campustrees in Bangladesh. Whilst she followed on being actively engaged in agricultural activities and experimenting with various indigenous methods of improving food output, she completed her Ph.D. in Business Administration from Washington International University, USA in 2003. Her thesis was on the Role and Contribution of TMSS (NGO) on Gender Equity/Equality in Bangladesh's Rural Structure under the supervision of Dr. Michael Busler Ph.D.

Early Career

Prof. Dr. Begum served as a Lecturer at Mujibur Rahman Government College, Bogura in 1980 and progressed to become an Assistant Professor in various educational institutes under Ministry of Education. Alongside her teaching profession, she established TMSS (Thengamara Mohila Sabuj Sangha) in 1980 with the vision of "Smiling Face of Women-folk."

Prof. Dr. Hosne-Ara Begum

Prof. Dr. Hosne-Ara Begum (born December 01, 1953) is a prominent Bangladeshi human rights and social activist, as well as an educationist, economist and environmentalist who is well known as the founder of Thengamara Mahila Sabuj Sangha (TMSS). Over the past four decades Prof. Dr. Hosne-Ara Begum has been honored with several awards and recognitions including the Ashoka Fellowship and the Begum Rokeya Padak. During the early years of her life Prof. Dr. Begum experienced discrimination and abuse which ignited her passion to develop a genuine grassroots movement led by impoverished women and very quickly grew throughout northern Bangladesh. Prof. Dr. Begum has gained immense recognition for her work in Bangladesh both abroad as well as by Bangladesh Government. Some of the impact and successes of her work promote women’s empowerment both financially and socially. Prof. Dr. Begum is an ardent advocate for raising awareness for knowledge through education along with technological advancement.

A charismatic leader

With her unique charismatic, visionary and transformative leadership, now TMSS has not only become one of the largest NGOs in Bangladesh but also is the top women focused NGOs in Bangladesh. Having experienced of both sides of gender has enabled Prof. Dr. Begum to translate this to her work for the people and drove her determination further in transforming interventions in policy formulation, in development, planning and designing, organizing and operation in order to make TMSS a successful and world-wide reputed organization globally. Thus far, Prof Dr. Begum has become associated with 53 reputed national and international organizations, associations and educational institutions as a Chairperson and a life member as well as she has to date received 117 professional training both home and abroad. She has presented numerous social and economic development related topics and keynote papers at different national and international meetings, seminars, symposiums and workshops. For her commitment, dedication and valuable contribution to socio-economic development and community improvement with focus on climate and environmental issues Prof. Dr. Begum has received35 awards including from the President and Prime Minister of Bangladesh and also from international organizations. Similarly, she is honored by Ashoka Fellow, Paul Harris Fellowship and AKS. Under her leadership through multi-dimensional activities, TMSS is continuing to contribute dynamically towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the national GDP and towards achieving the vision of Government of Bangladesh.

Contribution

Prof. Dr. Begum started her career as a teacher and then went on to become one of the country's leading NGOs, Thengamara Mohila Sabuj Sangha, founders in 1980 where she became a social worker in her hometown Bogura. She is currently the Executive Director of the NGO. Although Thengamara Mahila Sabuj Sangha was founded in 1964 with its indigenous title ‘Thengamara Sabuj Sanha’ (TSS) during the liberation war of Bangladesh all its operations were stopped and in 1980 the concerned authority sought the leadership of Prof. Dr. Begum who by an amendment resolution incorporated the Bengali term ‘Mohila’ keeping in view the development of women. TMSS quickly grew to be one of Bangladesh's greatest non-governmental development organizations under Prof. Dr. Begum’s executive leadership since 1980. The organization was founded to advance the diverse interests of the disadvantaged and sought support from International donors, including Government Ministries and Departments, UN agencies, Diplomatic Missions, International organizations, Corporate Multinationals, etc. TMSS has also established a 1000 bed Rafatullah Community Hospital, a Medical College, University, an Engineering College, and 32 Diploma and Para diploma technical and vocational institutes all over the country. It has a five star rated Hotel the Momo Inn and a large number of social businesses and enterprises including but not limited to Paper mill, Tiles Factory, Brick field, Wooden board mill, Water Plan, Glass factory, Cold storage, etc.
Through education, healthcare, and microfinance, 8 million families have been served. This organization has extended a maximum loan of Tk 2 million ( $ 23273.84). TMSS operates in all 64 districts at Bangladesh. There are approximately 32,000 office employees. The country's 0.12 million small and large associations are covered by TMSS.TMSS’s innovation of HEM (Health, Education &Microcredit) model has been recognized both locally and internationally for its great contribution to poverty alleviation and women empowerment.

Women empowerment through Microfinance

Women of Bangladesh are always being neglected due to patriarchal society. They were rarely directly involved in any of the mainstream activities in the society. Prof. Dr. Begum is one of the feminist leaders who worked in ensuring that women are included and be recognized for their contribution. Her charismatic leadership has served as a beacon for the development of the destiny of women in Bangladesh, especially in North Bengal. She started mobilizing a small group of mistreated and abused women and gradually became a successful founder of the largest women oriented development organizations in Bangladesh. TMSS is playing a crucial role through Microfinance program to economically empower poor/ultra poor women by creating, expanding, strengthening and upgrading their abilities and capacity, ensuring their direct involvement in income generating activities (IGAs) through demand–driven, holistic, multi-dimensional and integrated financial services.

Step taken to support socially excluded groups

One such significant achievement has been the ongoing work that Prof. Dr Begum and TMSS have been doing with three thousand (3,000) floating female prostitutes who have been rehabilitated back into leading a normal life. She has made an extensive effort in combating women and child trafficking, protecting over two thousand (2,000) women and children. She has also protested against women’s violence particularly domestic violence and has offered support and protection to more than four thousand (4,000) poor women living in rural areas in Bangladesh. Working towards eradication of the social disharmony, Prof. Dr. Begum has worked on more than 25,000 cases related to early marriage and polygamy.