Shinjita Alam of Bangladesh
In one of the poorest countries in the world, Shinjita Alam has dedicated much of her life to highlighting the connection between poverty and conflict, especially regarding the treatment of women in the domestic sphere and its repercussions for development. While studying for a degree in Social Welfare from the University of Dhaka, Alam worked with impoverished women in the slums of the capital, counseling them and providing primary-level education. She then went on to work for the nongovernmental organization Families for Children, conducting home visits to 100 women marginalized from their communities because they were widowed or divorced. Alam raised their level of education and awareness of their rights as citizens, while also providing skills-building trainings for employment.
After working for several years in the agricultural and job creation programs for the Bangladesh office of the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) – where she managed income-generating projects for women and mediated many domestic disputes within families – Alam initiated and oversaw their peace program, the first of its kind in Bangladesh. The program trained representatives from local organizations in traditional modes of conflict resolution and developed peace education curricula for use in schools across the country. Alam has also worked on behalf of the Garo people of northern Bangladesh, whose culture is distinct from the rest of the Bengali population. The largely Christian Garos often clash with Muslim Bengalis over land rights. With the Garo leadership, Alam formed a peace committee which could identify underlying causes of conflict and formulate how to resolve them. She also organized forums for interfaith dialogue between the Garo and Bengali, and opened lines of communication between the local government and the Garo people for resolution of land disputes.
Alam was a Woman PeaceMaker in 2008.