International Women’s Day – Interview with our Club President Shaheynoor Talukder

                                                                          by Tara Webster

International Women’s Day is a global day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural & political achievements of women. It is one of the most important days of the year to:

  • Celebrate women’s achievements
  • Raise awareness about women’s equality
  • Lobby for accelerated gender parity
  • Fundraise for female-focused activities
PR Committee member Tara Webster chatted with TERC President Shaheynoor Talukder about her thoughts on IWD 2022. Interview edited for length and clarity.
TW: Shaheynoor, can you tell me about how and why you joined the Toronto East Rotary Club (TERC)?
ST: I grew up in Bangladesh and had heard of Rotary; then when I came to Toronto and was working as a professional, I decided to try Rotary out. It was around then that I met another TERC member, Hema, and I attended a couple of club meetings. I have always believed in the importance of volunteering with organizations as a way to help, other than through my profession. One of the main reasons that I joined other than helping the community itself is what I get from it – I have a stressful job and helping others is soul-cleansing! A lot of people do join Rotary for professional development, but I joined as a way to help others and I get a lot from that.
TW: On International Women’s Day, what is the most important message that you want to send out to young women thinking about how they can use their expertise to effect change her in our community and abroad?
ST: I  believe the first step in anything is self-evaluation. Many of us don’t take the time to do that self-evaluation and to think both about what our skills are, and what we need. But this is very important, and remember that we can’t take care of others if we’re neglecting ourselves. Also, focus on your neighbors and what’s going on around your first. You’ll never have to look far for someone in need. No one has the power to help everyone, but if you can help the community, the community will lift up the city and the city will lift up the country, and so on.
TW: As a leader, how do you inspire people and make sure you lift everyone up?
ST: I don’t consider myself a leader! But the way I deal with people is to be respectful, that is a given. That is the way I was raised. The second thing is to make sure of what I myself and others want, and if I’m not sure, I ask. Thirdly, I will always acknowledge other people’s opinions. As a minority, it’s important to acknowledge that everyone may have a different opinion – we are all different people – and that it’s important to not assume that your view is not the only one.
TW: Who inspires you?
ST: This is a bit complicated (laughs)! Growing up, I didn’t really have role models outside of my own family. As an adult, I realize that the people that inspire me, I don’t necessarily agree with in all respects. For example, Hillary Clinton, to have come so far as a woman from her generation and to be so determined and forward is pretty amazing. Malala is a huge inspiration – to be so young and so have gone through so much, and to have forged a good life and done it all herself – it’s incredible.
TW: Rotary International has a goal to achieve a membership of at least 30% women by 2023. In your opinion, why is it important that more women join and contribute to Rotary Clubs like ours?
ST: That’s just the reality – women are contributing more and more to all aspects of life, on the way to equality. We used to be more-focused in the home and smaller circles, and now we are bringing our skills to all other areas. It’s just common sense I would say. The real question is “why would we not (join Rotary)?
TW: Do you have any thoughts on what would encourage more women and diverse populations to join Rotary?
ST: All clubs and communities are unique, so it’s hard to address the bigger picture. But I think in a place like Toronto, first of all, the clubs should be approaching 50% women and be representative of all gender identities. Some people who may not know about our club may have a stereotype in mind, so I think re-branding and showing everyone who we are is important. I also think that the professional development opportunities we offer are important both in Canada and especially in developing countries.
TW: Lastly, if there was one thing that you could wave a wand and magically change in the world, what would it be?
ST: I would make people more tolerant. I think what we need in this world is for people to mind their own business and to see everyone as a person. This would solve a lot of problems!
Thank you so much to Shaheynoor for opening up on her thoughts and views as we approach International Women’s Day!