Nirjharinee Hasan, Cord’s Country Representative in Myanmar, was born in a small town in Bangladesh on 6th December 1971, the day that India first acknowledged Bangladesh as an independent country. As she says, “Bangladesh was born, and I was born”. 

Nirjhar’s Dad died during the Liberation War, and her Mum was sick, so she grew up “like a free bird. There were a lot of boys in the area, so I was cycling, riding, climbing trees, and doing things that weren’t acceptable for a girl in our society. I think my childhood shaped me for who I am now”. 

Nirjhar went to Dhaka, the capital city, for the first time when she began her secondary education. In her spare time she gave tuition to children from the untouchable group.  Nirjhar did well at school and her Mum expected her to study Medicine or Engineering at university. However, Nirjhar wanted to study Theatre and Drama.  After a long period of conflict with her Mum, she finally went on to study Agriculture but continued her involvement with drama. 

Nirjhar was a student activist at university and was elected leader of the Student Union. During this time she had a number of very challenging lifechanging experiences. 

I was involved in student politics and once I was caught in the middle of a bomb attack by fundamentalist groups, which was traumatic for me for a long time afterwards and I was frightened to go out or be in a crowd… I also had another experience where I was targeted by the opposition party - student politics was very nasty.  A group of us from the All Student Front were having evening tea in a small roadside restaurant. A group from the Ruling Party Student Front targeted us with rifles.  There was gunfire and of the seven of us, three died, and three were severely injured. I fortunately had no injuries. Because I had the blood of other people on me, people thought that I had almost died, but I was completely uninjured. From that day my philosophy changed. I could have died in both cases. There is no reason to fear death, so I consider each day as my last day and I try not to leave things incomplete. I try to keep moving and I try to contribute… It was at that point that I think I became really strong… I try to be stronger every day because I know that if I let my fear come out, I might be very weak…” 

After university, Nirjhar was offered an internship with Care International, and so began her career in international development. She worked for several international NGOs in Bangladesh before moving to Myanmar in 2016.  Her first role in Myanmar involved working with 104 Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), training them to manage donor grants. She then moved on to manage a human rights programme.  

I love my work and what I am doing. My expertise is mainly working with CSOs… In Bangladesh I have worked with almost 300 CSOs and now some of those small organisations I started to work with in 2001 have become large. They are now able to independently manage big donor grants, and also carry out human rights work, and this gives me special satisfaction… maybe I am not the only person responsible for them accomplishing this, but I contributed to this process. The main thing is that I am working because I love this work, the human rights actions, working with the local community and building capacity for communities to have a better future 

Nirjhar became Cord’s Country Representative for Myanmar in January this year.  Nirjhar is excited to work for an organisation that lives out its values in the way it treats its staff as well as in the approach to its work.  “… Being Asian and a woman in Asian culture, I have lots of experience of discrimination.  I’m also Muslim, but I wasn’t discriminated against during the interview process or after I joined Cord, I’m equally valued…. I also felt that although Cord’s values were Christian values, I also hold those values, and so I was attracted to join them”. 

Since 2015 Cord has supported civil society in Myanmar, building social cohesion and mutual trust for a peaceful society. We’ve also supported victims of gender-based violence”. 

Nirjhar believes that the difficulties she’s faced in life have helped her to cope with all the challenges resulting from this year’s military coup. “I have experienced worse than that, so I could manage the 100 days without a nervous breakdown.” 

I am alive now and that is a blessing for me, and at the same time I’m very lucky.  I wasn’t a victim in the situations I’ve faced, and so maybe I have something to do and a mission to fulfil.

Thank you for your generous support which is helping to transform communities throughout Myanmar. You are helping Nirjhar’s dreams to be realised.