Last week, I was roaming around the streets of Thamel, Kathmandu after a conference and entered a souvenir shop. The young shop owner came forward, showed me things I could take back to my country and asked me where I was from.
It has always given me a sense of pride to say – I am from Bangladesh. Usually, people from renowned tourist places reply with statements like – "I thought from India" or "Bangladesh is a very good country". But what came as a reply, was quite a surprise.
"The land of great leader, Tiger [Not tigress] Sheikh Hasina "
I was curious to know his outlook on our honourable Prime Minister as his face was reflecting such joy, which is rarely seen for a leader from another nation.
As a reply to my curiosity, he mentioned that the way she has allowed Rohingyas to stay in Bangladesh is an unprecedented example set in world history. He added that it is like welcoming unknown people in your own home, for the sake of humanity.
To know more from his side, I carried on with my questions. "Don't you think it can be a long-term problem for Bangladesh?" His answer surprised and moved me at the same time.
"What Sheikh Hasina did, no one dared to do, nobody will do. She is a hero. Giving shelter to these helpless people will never become a problem, because good deeds will always come back as good to your country."
This ordinary conversation with this random foreigner in a foreign land, who never passed his school exams, probably does not know the law of attraction, indeed gave an extraordinary insight. Because whenever I read any news regarding a government initiative or the honourable PM, I observe many negative opinions and no-confidence notions. Whereas the global people think in the opposite manner.
When I shared this incident with my family members, my father also shared one story related to HPM. My father's friend Mr Soh Neu Bi from Singapore once visited Bangladesh back in December, 2008, a week before the national election. In a casual conversation Bi said, "Vote for Sheikh Hasina". The other Bangladeshi counterparts, including my father, were curious to know the reasoning behind this statement and like the shopkeeper of Nepal, Bi said – "The hero of your country".
"She suffered a lot, sacrificed a lot, built herself all alone and there is no alternative to her," he added.
While writing this article I recalled Mr Zalek, a shopkeeper from the market of Medina of Sousse, Tunisia. On hearing the name Bangladesh he put both his thumbs up and said, "Bangladesh is the best''. I have a video posted of him on my social media. What I could not capture, is the long conversation we had, while we were on an assignment to gather stories from the locals.
He shared a story of his Bangladeshi colleague at a construction site in Egypt who saved his family by giving him a big loan. As the story went on, Zalek praised the Bangladesh Government and honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for the special attention paid to the Bangladeshi migrant workers.
Again, this ordinary conversation gave me an extraordinary outlook on the leadership of HPM's contingency planning as Bangladesh received the highest $24.77 billion inward remittance in FY 2020-21, amid global movement restrictions along with air travel suspensions due to the worsening Covid-19 pandemic.
Sheikh Hasina is the second most powerful woman in South Asia. She has been ranked 43rd on Forbes' list of the most powerful women in the world. Thus Ms Yong Merolyn Yafe, head of department, Human Rights and Governance at Reach Out Cameroon, described her as a "symbol of transformation".
"Ascending into power at a time when the country is marred by unrest and characterised by vulnerability, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in my opinion will be described as a symbol of transformation," she said.
In a world full of male leaders, as one of the handful female leaders in the world, she has proved that female leadership is indeed the solution to the global crisis.
In this pandemic era, she has remained an epitome of development ensuring that the economy stays on the rise even while other countries experienced a slump. To some people, she is defined as a magical leader, but in my opinion, she is a reminder that ''when women rule the world, the world moves with them."
My dear colleague Dr Raja M, professor and head of consulting cell CSE, CMR Institute of Technology, Bangalore, India has high thoughts about our leader.
In his words, "The name Honourable Sheikh Hasina strikes through the sword to describe the audacious supreme nature of a leader. The endearing life history of the noble prime minister of Bangladesh is astonishing. She is an icon of women power which is revealed in every remarkable decision and her services to humanity. Her diplomatic charisma is mutually beneficial for the bilateral relationship of India – Bangladesh."
Back in February, 2020 I visited Sri Lanka where I met Mr Sada Vikram, a 30-year-old political science student who owns a tour company. According to Sada, the political culture of South Asia is more or less chaotic but it is the leader who makes it better for people.
He specifically mentioned the devastating strikes and its consequences in the socio-economic state of Bangladesh in previous regimes and the difference Bangladesh is seeing today because of great leadership like Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's daughter Sheikh Hasina.
I created an opinion poll in my social media to understand the insights global netizens have on our leader. My Instagram friend Rashed Hamdan from Dubai expressed that he heard about Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib from his late father, and he admires the activities of the present PM Sheikh Hasina.
He said, "Though Bangladesh is a Muslim majority country, I see you in liberal clothes and lifestyle. It is a sign of a liberal leadership in your country from a liberal lady prime minister".
I couldn't agree more because a country's cultural picture is a reflection of the country's mindset. Bangladesh is a secular state and by law we are independent to choose our lifestyles. It is undeniable that recently there has been a rise of intolerance and unrest amongst secularists and those with a very religious mindset, yet the number of women joining the workforce, sports, education, entertainment industry, social media is greater than before. This is indeed a result of liberal laws, policies, and leadership.
Eliza Jonah from Texas replied to my Instagram story that she thinks HPM deserves the Nobel Peace Prize for her act of humanity in the Rohingya crisis management.
My old friend and colleague - Sonam Jurme from Bhutan - often shares that Bhutan and Bangladesh have special unprecedented relations since Bhutan was the first country to recognize Independent Bangladesh.
He mentioned, "The bilateral friendship has been further taken to a new level in terms of trade and commerce, regional peace and mutual cooperation under the dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, where she has visited Bhutan three times so far."
In terms of efficient Covid-19 pandemic management US Ambassador to Bangladesh Peter Haas praised the HPM saying, "Bangladesh is clearly ahead of the United States in vaccination programmes under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina."
Back in 2016 I was fortunate enough to reside with a Japanese family as a part of an exchange programme where I met the father of House or Sōke - Mr. Takehiro Sudou and we are connected on social media.
Few months back, after the assassination of former PM of Japan, Shinzo Abe, Sudou posted stories thanking the heads of the states who were friends with Abe. One of the photos was Abe and our HPM Sheikh Hasina where Sudou wrote, "Leaders and friends of this and the afterlife". Japanese culture and spiritual belief puts great significance on the afterlife and my Sōke wished her to stay friends even there - denoting the deepest respect towards HPM Sheikh Hasina.
Robel Yeshitela, senior programme and grant manager of Initiative Africa, appreciates her initiatives for international corporations.
He said, "In 2022, our Minister of Trade and Regional Integration and Bangladeshi Minister for Commerce have set grounds for bilateral commerce at an equitable price. Wise move by the Head of Government of Bangladesh for directing the Commerce Ministry to rekindle the historic connection between Bangladesh and Ethiopia. "
Graeme English, Circular Economy Advisor at ReLondon, said, "PM Hasina is a strong believer of sustainability in terms of climate protection, poverty alleviation, peace and prosperity for which she received SDG Progress Award in 2021. She has called for action by civil servants in Bangladesh to use the Sustainable Development Goals to work towards a developed and prosperous Bangladesh and we are with her in this."
These stories draw only one conclusion, that the Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina has influence across borders with her substantial leadership qualities, historical decisions and farsighted visions. There can be different opinions and arguments on her actions as this is the beauty of democracy. Critics are the greater part of a leader's actions, so is the admiration. We can even find rare examples of admiration for her from Pakistan as Dr Malika-e-Abida Khattak, researcher, and international analyst wrote, "The Padma Bridge bears the signature of Ms. Hasina's visionary leadership."
Youth, netizens, development professionals and global citizens have spoken up the word of commendation for our leader and they believe that the name "Sheikh Hasina" will always be tied with the development of Bangladesh.
The author is the Communication Manager of GenLab, a youth led think & do tank.