I am a small man from Bangladesh. I work for the small man. My formal
schooling is very little. I read only up to sixth grade and my English
pronunciation is very poor. I beg your pardon for that.
Today I feel very emotional. I know that I am not qualified to address such
a distinguished gathering. I have been honored with the great Magsaysay
Award for Community Leadership. At this memorable hour I thank God for the
honor that he has given me. I pay my hearty salutation to the soul of late
President Ramon Magsaysay. He is remembered by this great award. I believe
he will remain immortal in the minds of millions of people for this great
work. May God give him peace.
I thank the honorable members of the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation that
they have selected a small rural worker like me for such an award. This will
give inspiration to millions of rural development workers in Bangladesh and
in the rest of Asia.
Today I remember Akhter Hameed Khan, the founder-director of the Bangladesh
Academy for Rural Development and the architect of the Comilla Model, which
is widely known throughout the world. Director Khan received the Magsaysay
Award in 1963. I was a devoted student of his. He was my teacher, friend,
and philosopher in the field of rural development.
Being inspired and guided by Director Khan, I formed with eight other
members the Deedar Cooperative Society in 1960. On the day of formation, we
decided that each one of us would sacrifice one cup of tea everyday and
would put the money into a savings account. Today, 1,650 members of the
Deedar Society are following the same practice, although the price of tea
has gone up. This way we have accumulated our capital and assets of
When I started my work as an organizer of my village cooperative, I did not
know that for this work I would one day be honored in an international forum
like this. But since I was a poor man myself, the poverty of my village
people disturbed me; since I was young I wanted to do something for them.
When I learned about the cooperative way of development, I dreamt of a good
future. I faced many problems but I was always hopeful. I never became
pessimistic. Today Deedar has become a model cooperative society. The
achievement of Deedar is now a great inspiration for the other villagers of
Bangladesh. The Bangladesh Academy for Rural Development (BARD) is now
experimenting with a project called the Comprehensive Village Development
Program, using Deedar as a model for a cooperative society. The influence of
Deedar upon hundreds of cooperative organizations is great. Many people
visit Deedar daily to learn of our experiences.
In building Deedar, I faced many difficulties in the initial year. But
within a period of seven to eight years, I was able to motivate the
villagers and show them the way to self-respect and self-reliance. I tell my
villagers that we are not helpless, we should not live on the mercy of
others. We can build our own future. I love my people and my organization.
In return my people give me their support. We put our labor together. I feel
that sincerity, hard work, and devotion do not go unrewarded.
I experimented with a number of my own ideas, which were let democratically
accepted by cooperative members. The reason for the acceptance was that I
had developed them by working very closely with the villagers. I did not
impose ideas. Most of my experiments produced good results and some of the
tested ideas were accepted by government.
I confined my role to leading the organization. I remained in the same post
for more than twenty-five years. Deedar is my only dream I want to die as a
social worker since I believe that the struggle in which I am involved has
yet a long way to go. My people are still poor and have to travel far. This
award, and this honor that you have given me, will provide new enthusiasm
and inspiration to me and to my colleagues.
My award is a recognition of the good work done by the members of my
society. I believe it will inspire millions of rural development workers
working at the grass-roots level in Asia. It will be rewarding me when these
workers receive such awards in the future.