The doctor without a degree saving hundreds of lives in Bangladesh

September 15, 2017 by and

It is 5:30am in Kaliyakoir, Gazipur, and Nilufar Yasmin’s patients are waiting already outside, lined up beside a sign that says ‘BRAC Shasthya Shebika’. They are farmers and shopkeepers, and they have come to ‘Doctor Apa’ to get their daily dose of tuberculosis medicine before heading to work.

Nilufar’s parents married her off at 13 and she gave birth to her first child soon after. Unable to go back to school but not wanting to lose her independence, she went against the wishes of her family, as well as her new family, and started working soon after the birth. Leaving her new baby with her in-laws, she marched from doorstep to doorstep every day to tend to patients.

Nilufar’s family did not take a lot of time to accept her job. They were all jolted awake by screaming at 3am one stormy April by their neighbour, Majeda, who was going into labour. Nilufar saved the day, rushing in, checking her vitals, arranging transport and accompanying the young mother and her family to the nearby hospital.

“I fell in love with my job that night,” she said. “I saved both my friend and her baby’s life, and everyone in my family went back to sleep peacefully.”

Not only did her family realise how important her work was, but her husband never questioned her again. When they woke up the next morning, he promised that she would never have to ask about leaving the house. Many years later, when he was working in Qatar, they were talking over the phone when her much-older male neighbour came in to get his pressure checked. Go and help him, that is your priority, you can talk to me whenever you want” he said immediately, assuring her that he would always be there.

“When I was a child,” she said, “I wanted to become a doctor, but I gave up on that dream when I had a child myself. In my ways though, I have been able to do even more than I might have been able to do as a doctor though – I am a practitioner, a friend and a mother, to so many now.

This year will mark twelve years of working with BRAC for Nilufar. She has helped to deliver 300 babies, covers 400 households on a regular basis, and attends the daily needs of thousands of people all around her.

She also has students. After she finishes her work, she starts her other job – as a trained barefoot lawyer – teaching a class of 20 students every week.

At BRAC, we always have one eye on scaling up solutions to reach millions, but the other never leaves the doers like Nilufar who prove every day that a world that works for all of us is possible.

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