Almost a decade back, Faez once heard their helping hand at home, endearingly called Bilkis Khala, crying hysterically.
He came to learn that she was pregnant with her fourth child and her husband had threatened to divorce her if she gave birth to a girl this time. The couple had three other girls.
It was 2014 and Faez had just finished school and stepped into college. He immediately reached out to some friends to help her and they volunteered without hesitation. They spoke to Bilkis Khala's husband and explained to him how she had no control over the gender of their soon-to-be-born child. Then they created a fund to help the couple financially.
From that point onward, Faez's endeavours to help out many like her took off.
"There are millions of such distressed women out there who share her fate. We can help them out as well, or at least try to," said Faez, who is now 24.
Faez recently received the Diana Award for 2022, along with 19 others.The Diana Award, named after the late Princess Diana, is awarded to young, driven individuals around the world who wish to make a difference. Faez won under the 'Changer' category for creating the Abhoy app – which helps women to instantly contact the nearest police station in case of emergencies.
"The first couple of days, I was in disbelief after knowing that my efforts got me nominated for the Diana Award. I can now possibly imagine that my small initiatives will have an impact on the whole world," said Faez.
Faez and his friends have been running a youth-led organisation called Barishal Youth Society since 2014. They only go by the name BYS now, since they are spreading operations to other districts.
Faez and his team specifically work on Sustainable Development Goal 4- Quality Education, SDG 5-Gender Equality, SDG 13-Climate Actions and SDG 16- Peace and Justice.
"So far, we have stopped around 500 child marriages. At the same time, we created institutions that address violence against women by creating job opportunities and raising awareness," he said.
"We are constantly trying to break the wheel of subjugation of women in society, bringing an end to taboos around working women," he added.
Three years into operation, the team won the Joy Bangla Youth Award in 2017. Using this award as a stepping stone, they pressed forward.
"2017 also marked the year when we emphasised the SDGs even more, which led to what won me the Diana Award," he said, adding, "however, we stumbled a great many times over the sustainability of our concept."
Abhoy: A friend just a tap away
Women have to be enabled to take action on their own. But how do you do that? In many cases, they need an instant solution. That is where the Abhoy app comes in.
Through the app, users, especially women, can instantly contact the nearest police station in case of emergencies. However, the app is operational only within Barishal for now.
For the Abhoy app to be fully operational across Bangladesh would require all the police stations and law enforcement agencies in the country to be mapped and connected to the system.
The national emergency hotline 999 is still, however, operational. How does Abhoy add value over that?
"The app shows contact details in real-time, so both the user and the nearest police station can instantly track or contact each other. This eliminates the need for calling and establishing contact details when an imminent danger strikes," said Faez.
An all girl-summit
A summit exclusively attended by girls was the second step on Faez's road to the Diana Award. In the southern parts of the country, this summit was meant to help create a network of young women collaborating amongst themselves.
In its initial stages, representatives from 30 female-oriented professions attended the call.
"We build up their capacity and we provide them with the soft skills they lack. They take home this freshly acquired knowledge from the summit and apply them in their own fields," Faez shared with us.
He also added they have built up a network of 600 girls who help each other through shared experiences.
A school like no other
A school without assessment and multiple subjects might make many parents wary, but that is exactly what Faez aimed at – a school with none of the characteristics of a regular school.
They named the school Barisal Nook, formed in 2020. It provides an alternate form of education where children are allowed to pick any subject that suits them.
"It is not necessary for a student to forcefully study a subject if s/he is not good at it. And since a lot of our enrollment is made up of marginalised communities' children, we provide them with alternate education that caters to their needs and demands," he explained.
There is no exam here, no syllabus. One of the students, nine-year-old Sabbir, who has no formal education or training in coding, once created a smart dustbin from scratch simply by watching and learning.