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A conversation with Barbara Wickham

‘I've fallen in love with Bangladeshi people’

29 Apr 2019, 10:49 | updated: 29 Apr 2019, 11:08

Photo: Arif Nur

Barbara Wickham, OBE, is the country director of the British Council in Bangladesh. She has been working in this position since 2015 and she is all set to move to India next month and take charge as the director of the British Council in India. She feels she can still contribute for the Bangladeshi people and explore cooperation opportunities between the West Bengal and Bangladesh. In a freewheeling conversation, she talks about the recent successful Women of the World (WOW) Dhaka festival, upcoming cultural programmes by the British Council in Bangladesh and much more. Excerpts follow:

The first ever Women of the World (WOW) Dhaka festival was organised by the British Council in Bangladesh recently. The programme was participated by thousands of people, mostly women. What kind of impact programmes such as this can make in our society about the women empowerment? 

In Bangladesh, there are many challenges for the women and girls. We created a platform for the women and girls to talk about these and create a healthy atmosphere where we can rationally analyze our possibilities and what girls and women can contribute for the society. We gave platform to some of the inspiring women and cultural icons of Bangladesh to tell their stories and share their ideas so that others can get benefit from it. Basically, it was all about challenging the stereotypes and exploring the true potential of our women and girls.

You have been working as the director of the British Council in Bangladesh for almost four years and this month you will be signing off from your duty. How was your journey in Bangladesh?

I have fallen in love with the Bangladeshi people to be honest. They are indeed very hospitable. ‘People of the heart’ – that’s what I call to the Bangladeshis. I love the food and the county side as well. It is hidden treasure to be honest and it is a shame that many people do not know Bangladesh as a great tourist destination. I really enjoyed my time here, I will miss all my colleagues, and the beautiful time we have spent here together.

You have worked with the youths of Bangladesh. Do you think our youths have it in them to shine in flying colours on the global stages?

Of course, I truly believe Bangladeshi youths are very talented and if they get proper support from the society they can excel on global platforms. A few weeks ago, the UK Alumni Awards was held and on the Entrepreneur category the winner was Mamunur Rahman — a talented Bangladeshi young man. His idea of making low cost sanitary napkins from garment scraps was appreciated by everyone there. So I believe there are more such talented young people lilke Mamunur Rahman in Bangladesh who will build the future of this country.

World Cup Cricket will be held in UK this year and Bangladesh is a cricket crazy nation. How excited are you about the World Cup Cricket? Do you have any plan to screen the matches on the big screen at the British Council premises?

We have not thought about that but it is a very good idea. At the Fuller Road office of the British Council in Dhaka, we have very beautiful lawns where we can set up big screen and broadcast the matches live for the audiences. I wish Bangladesh and England all the best for the Cricket World Cup.