At the 1977 National Committee Meeting of Australian Church Women, it was announced that two Winifred Kiek Scholarships would be offered for 1978. Up until this meeting, there was only one scholarship awarded each year. It was decided to offer two scholarships because the scholars’ expenses for the two previous years ‘had not been high’. The two new recipients were Miss Tapati Das from Dacca, Bangladesh, and Miss Barkat Dass of Karachi, Pakistan.
This week I present Tapati and next week Barkat will be featured.
At the time of her application for a scholarship Tapati was 27 years old, and she lived in densely populated Dacca (now known as Dhaka), the capital city of Bangladesh. Her father was a Baptist minister, and she was the manager of the YWCA Handicraft Centre in Dacca. This centre helped women to earn a living in handicrafts, particularly those who were made destitute during the conflict with Pakistan in the 1970s. About 100 women were employed there and many more were in training.
The scholarship enabled Tapati to undertake a four-month observation tour of several YWCA handicraft projects in local communities in other Asian countries, to equip herself further in her management of the Dacca Handicraft Centre. An itinerary and study program were arranged by the World YWCA for each month that Tapati spent in Hong Kong, India, the Philippines and Taiwan. She commenced her tour in December 1977.
On receipt of her scholarship, a very excited Tapati wrote to Australian Church Women to express her gratitude and to inform them that she had begun the process for visas to visit her intended destinations. In the meantime, she was engaged in the preparations for a three-week ‘International Management Workshop on the Crafts Industries’, which took place in September/October in Bangladesh. The participants were from YWCAs in Fiji, India, Korea, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea and Sri Lanka, as well as local delegates. She was looking forward to all the new experiences planned and promised to keep Australian Church Women informed of these activities.
Tapati studied the management and production methods of the craft centres that she visited. Her goal for the tour was to learn new and effective ways to use the natural resources of her country, as well as be exposed to new ideas in Asian handcrafts, and hopefully better promote the jute products of her centre. Above all, her Christian aim was ‘to show Christ to the women with whom she works, Christian and non-Christian alike, to help them to a better way of life’.
When Tapati’s observation and training tour concluded she wrote again to Australian Church Women and said:
‘It was undoubtedly a rich experience for me. I have found that my observation and training experience in India was much more helpful that [sic] any of the other countries, because there are lots of things which are similar to our country. Their way of work, their problems are in many ways similar. I really do not know how I should thank you. I am grateful to you for giving me this opportunity. It helped me a lot to gain experience in handicrafts as well as in different programmes in the YWCA. I am sure I will be able to implement many of their ideas in my own situation. Remember me in your prayers.’
Tapati remained a member of the YWCA for many years, and I believe that she became the World YWCA Secretary for Self-Reliance during the 1980s.
Next week, I’ll present information on Barkat Dass and her studies in Australia.
The WKS aims to further equip Christian women so that they can better serve their Church and local community.
· Working Documents and Minutes of the 1977 and 1979 National Committee Meetings of Australian Church Women (ACW).
· Documents from the Winifred Kiek Scholarship folder in the ACW Archives.