Growing up in northwest Bangladesh, Mohammed Rezwan saw many of his friends and relatives denied access to education due to flooding from monsoons. After studying architecture, he knew he wanted to develop hospitals and schools but worried about the impact of floods on the physical structures. As a solution, he decided to utilize boats and in 1998, he founded Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha.
Unable to source funding for his ideas, Rezwan started with an old computer and $500 of school scholarship money and savings. He had no experience writing grant proposals, but he researched online and wrote emails and proposals to hundreds of organizations. In 2002, four years after founding Shidhulai, he was able to generate the funds to build the first floating school.
Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha now operates a fleet of floating schools, libraries, health clinics, and playgrounds. Floating training centers with wireless internet teach women and girls new skills, sustainable agriculture, climate change adaptation, and women’s rights. During severe floods, floating farms allow for agricultural impedimenta such as coops for eggs and storage for meat to protect against being washed away. These farms allow landless families to not only feed themselves during the rainy season but also to earn money from crops that would otherwise be underwater.
Shidhulai serves close to 122,000 people in flood-prone areas. Their initiatives allow access to education and information so that those affected by the floods can develop new skills, grow flood-resistant crops, and adapt to extreme conditions.
In 2019, Rezwan was recognized as one of the 20 Earth Heroes of the world in the book Earth Heroes. His floating school design was exhibited at the “Design with the other 90%” show, organized by Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, the National Design Museum, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Rezwan has served on international advisory committees dealing with education, technology, and the environment and regularly presents at global conferences on his innovations, climate change, green energy, and education.
We had an opportunity to speak with Mohammed Rezwan on our podcast, Social Design Insights. Listen to the episode below.