Ifreet Taheea, 22, proves the power of youth activism in benefiting the community through her inspiring story. Along with a group of friends, Ifreet started a group on Facebook titled Dhaka Covid-19 Crisis Relief, through which people could stay updated and gain the information needed for ways they could donate and help the cause. They managed to raise $10,000 for Bangladesh’s underprivileged families! Ifreet also started 3.5 billion reason initiative focused on gender equality and female engagement in the Bangladesh community.
Meet Ifreet Taheea, a food blogger
The story of Ifreet Taheea, a food blogger: In Bangladesh, one in five people lives below the poverty line, with some having an average wage below $5 per day.
The lockdown caused by the recent pandemic increased the number of beggars on the streets.
Some passersby, even though fewer during the lockdown, might have offered them some food or pocket money.
An inspiring 22 year-old, Ifreet Taheea, a food blogger, took matters into her own hands.
So far, she has raised $10,000, and counting, for Bangladesh’s underprivileged families.
Along with a group of friends, she opened a group on Facebook titled Dhaka Covid-19 Crisis Relief, through which people could stay updated and gain the information needed for ways they could donate and help the cause.
Donations could be made through bKash (a mobile financial service in Bangladesh), City Bank and via Facebook as well.
Youth Time brings to you her powerful story, by elaborating more on this independent initiative and its combination with Taheea’s interests in children’s education and women’s empowerment.
This journey, impressively crossing paths with that of a food blogger, puts together all the pieces of a young, active, responsible citizen.
In addition, in this interview we will take a closer look at Taheea’s selfless act and put it into context by digging deeper into youth activism, voluntarism, and the meaning of being a global citizen in Bangladesh.
Ifreet Taheea begins her conversation with Youth Time by speaking about how it is to be one of her country’s top food blogger, and simultaneously working in the field for people who desperately need aid.
Thanks to Her Passion, Balancing Both Activities Has Never Been an Issue
“Over time, I realized that I had a knack for taking initiatives amidst a crisis situation such as helping in fundraising during the Rana Plaza collapse, leading winter drives, etc.
Naturally, when the lockdown started and a friend reached out to me to initiate the project of distributing supplies, I was more than happy to help”, says Taheea, who is currently in her last year of working towards an undergraduate degree at North South University in Dhaka, double majoring in International Business and Marketing.
Recalling that a huge portion of the population in Bangladesh is in the day laborer category, she explains the process of choosing which families should benefit from donated supplies.
“Rickshaw pullers, drivers, maids were and still are losing their jobs left and right. We tapped into our links of day laborers and started with them initially. Later on, they would connect us to their network of people who needed help.”
There were days when volunteers would just hand out the essentials to beggars on the street as they moved along. She is of the opinion that food is the best way to learn about culture. In the current pandemic, she drives supplies to underprivileged families. Taheea explains that her love for food grew during her exchange year in the U.S.
She considers the chance to travel to other countries to be a privilege. A privilege which she managed to benefit from importantly, and turned it into a position as one of the 8 Food Bloggers You Simply Must Know in Dhaka.
“During those trips I always tried out new cuisines to know how certain dishes are supposed to taste and then wrote about them in the best possible manner for others to know about them,” she explains.
Although she is no certified food critic, Taheea conveys her reviews to the audience so that they find value for money when trying out new restaurants.
“Time management and dedication are two of my strongest suits. I am passionate about both these fields; one for my professional and other for my personal life. Thus, balancing both of them had never been an issue.”
How Many Steps Separate Virtual Influence from Real Life?
Virtual influence is among the most common things in today’s youth activism and engagement in the community. Now that she is called a “food blogger influencer”, Taheea reckons to stay true to herself and her followers, too.
“One of the reasons why people know @iffybiffys is because I always give authentic reviews, and that’s also a motto I try to live by. Stay true to yourself,” She says.
In terms of social activism, she thinks that networking plays a bigger role than virtual influence.
“I try my best to make every interaction meaningful wherever I go and try to stay as connected to those people long after the events where I meet them. As for the virtual influence, staying active on social media, responsibly, helps a lot.”
She shares that there were people from 5-8 years ago who reached out to her after having read a post about her work on Facebook.
“So it’s crucial to stay connected, virtually and otherwise.”
People Appreciate Those Who Start Young Because It Shows That You Are Active
Even though Taheea started volunteering at the age of 12, according to her it does not matter at what age you start working for a cause.
“People do appreciate those who start young, because it shows that you are active. I believe starting early allowed me to apply for a whole range of opportunities in the field of leadership and empowerment which are open for applicants under 18 or 21. It also allowed me to understand how the working environment in this field could potentially be if I took it up as a profession.”
Acknowledging that a cause cannot be forced, she expands on the power of voluntarism in the community.
“Read books and articles, and follow up on the news and see if it pulls a string. If it does, great! Do something about it; help out at the soup kitchen or conduct a community cleanup. If not, no problem, but stay educated and do not demean anyone regardless of their age, gender, or race.”
Gender Equality – Another Face of Taheea’s Long-standing Activism
To understand the importance of proper leadership training and education to women, Taheea started the 3.5 billion reason initiative, which stemmed from her own experience with the patriarchy that surrounds her and many other girls in her country.
Now, eight years after this initiative was launched, Taheea shares with this Youth Time author how the conditions of education and leadership opportunities between urban and rural female students in Bangladesh have changed.
She thinks of 3.5 Billion Reasons as a small step toward bridging the huge gap that exists in society.
“A part of that initiative was for those girls to go back to their communities and lead projects on their own. They were provided certificates only upon meeting all the criteria required. Some of the initiatives taken by those girls are still going on till today, and we believe we were able to create a ripple effect by empowering those girls.”
According to her, these girls are advocates for gender equality, education, and women’s empowerment.
Taheea’s successful engagement in the community completes a piece in the big diverse puzzle of Youth Time – as a non-profit platform for young people all around the globe.
You can follow Ifreet Taheea, a food blogger on Instagram @iffybiffys.
Without a doubt, the pandemic affected people all around the globe massively and differently. In the previous piece, “Is the World Staring at a Mental Health Crisis? A Perspective from a Mental Health Activist” we focused on how it impacted mental health issues in India.
Photos: From the archive/albums of Ifreet Taheea
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