03/08/2019, 18.25
BANGLADESH
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For Nomita Halder, women succeed with the support of family, community and Church

by Sumon Corraya

Ms Halder was the first Catholic woman to be named personal secretary to a prime minister. After a terror attack in Dhaka, she prevented the freezing of Church funds. She calls on Christians to engage more in politics.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) – To "succeed, a woman needs the support of her family, community and the Church", this according to Nomita Halder who spoke to AsiaNews on International Women's Day.

Ms Halder, who is now retired, was the first Catholic woman to be appointed as personal secretary to a Bangladeshi prime minister.

She views herself as "the product of the Catholic Church. I have done all my studies at Church-run schools. My role models in life were priests and nuns. [From them] I learnt discipline, to wake up early, not to gossip, and get to school and work on time. I have followed these teachings in my professional career as well."

Nomita Halder is a parishioner at St Paul’s Catholic church in Shelabunia, Diocese of Khulna. She studied at the Bangladesh Agricultural University in Mymensingh with Church support.

She remembers that then Dhaka Archbishop “Michael Rozario and Fr Marino Rigon (a Xaverian missionary who spent 60 years in Bangladesh) came to visit me often.”

In 2014 She was appointed personal secretary to current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. At that time, she was also secretary at the Ministry of Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment.

"We will be finally able to say that it is really Women's Day when women can make decisions in the family, at work and in society. The reason why a day is dedicated to women, and not to men, is that women are not yet emancipated. If we really want to improve women’s condition, we need to empower them.”

With respect to Christians, she explained that "Young Christians are unaware of jobs in the public administration.” By and large, “If they want to succeed, they prefer to look for work with Catholic NGOs. But there are many public sector jobs compared to the private sector. I urge them to study and try this venue as well.”

During her term in office, she helped the poor and Christians. Her work led her to realise that “Some communities are unaware that they are entitled to government housing subsidies as well as medical funding for serious cases.”

After the attack against a coffee shop that catered to foreigners in Dhaka on 1st July 2016, the government cracked down on foreign funding for NGOs, but she was able to prevent it from applying to the Church's works. “The Church is not an NGO," she said.

Nomita retired last September and now would like to teach at a university, so as to remain involved in society.

In the meantime, she suggests Christians should "engage in political activities since they have the qualities that make a good politician and can serve the nation."

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