MUNJARIN ABONY: Breaking Gender Norms in Bangladesh

Munjarin Mahbub Abony is a model, social activist, dancer, engineer, and most importantly a mother who is breaking down enough stereotypes to be the talk of the town. Juggling so many multiple roles is no easy task, but Abony accomplishes it with enthusiasm and perseverance while taking care of her baby at the same time, a role that requires immense dedication, love, and care that only a woman can provide. During an exclusive interview with TINDS, Abony shares her story of not just her accomplishments but also the struggles that she has had to face to get to the top.

Tell us a little bit about your childhood.

Abony: I have had a pretty great childhood. In Spite of belonging from a fairly conservative family I was able to explore the creative side of myself. I used to attend classes to learn classical music but I was rather interested in the dance classes going on in other rooms. So, one day day I bunked my music classes to go join the dance class without prior permission from my parents. Later when they got to know, they weren’t very happy about it but I was pretty stubborn as a kid and my parents eventually understood along the way when I aced my results during my SSC.

How good is Munjarin Abony, the dancer?

Munjarin Abony Breaking Gender Norms in Bangladesh
Munjarin Abony Breaking Gender Norms in Bangladesh

Abony: When I got admitted to college, there was a cultural academy there and I would visit daily because I loved to dance. Offered to participate in the weekly programs and later was offered a 70% scholarship on my tuition fees on the condition that I perform in every show. I did 156 shows in just 2 years. Have also had the opportunity to visit Thailand to represent Bangladesh in the International Folk Dance Festival and won first prize. Went to Shimla, to participate in a competition which took place as a protest against girls being killed during their birth in India. I have had the amazing opportunity to travel 14 countries in total and win 10 awards to bring back home.

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Why didn’t you continue your dance? 

Abony: Well, I feel we don’t have much to offer to artists in our country. I feel the lack of cultural activity a lot in Bangladesh. There are immense amounts of talent but not enough platforms to showcase or encourage that. Whereas, in several neighboring countries artists are treated with so much respect. I was offered the Indian High Commission Dance Scholarship and I wanted to pursue it, but it was my mother who did not see a future in it and I wasn’t allowed to.

What did you study?

Abony: I am an engineer by education, I studied mechanical engineering from Ahsanullah University. A group of us had the opportunity to visit the UK, in the Formula Student Competition, where we made a Formula Race car and won two awards at Silverstone Track. It was during my university days when my career in fashion started picking up pace.

Tell us a little about the initial days of yourself stepping into the world of media.

Abony: Besides my studies, I was working as a model and was featured in 3 music videos. During 2016, I won the title for the ‘World Miss University and things started to take off from there. I also got featured in one of Grameenphones ads which was a turning point for me. It was after my marriage when I participated in other beauty pageants and won.

Munjarin Abony Breaking Gender Norms in Bangladesh
Munjarin Abony Breaking Gender Norms in Bangladesh

When did you get married?

Abony: I got married in 2017 and was blessed with my daughter in 2018. But soon after, I was the victim of severe depression and used to be very anxious all the time. I gained 18 kgs and was becoming more sad with everyday passing by. I tried to lift my spirits up by trying to get myself back in shape with workouts and yoga sessions. It was getting better gradually but I always felt the need to do better.

How did you think of participating in the Mrs. World Bangladesh competition?

Abony: Basically it was random when I came across the news while scrolling Facebook that there was a competition that’s being held for married women. Intrigued but I still wasn’t happy with myself and did not think I was fit to participate. Working harder to encourage myself and I believe hard work always pays off like it did. I participated and won the first ever title of Mrs World Bangladesh 2019. I have also had the amazing opportunity to visit Las Vegas to represent our country as the brand ambassador of Mrs. World where I won the Ambassador award as well.

You’re also involved in a lot of social work as well. Could you enlighten us a little about that?

Abony: I feel privileged to be able to help the ones in need of help. I have been engaged with social work for a very long time and I hope to someday be able to open my own foundation, Mujarin Abony Foundation. During COVID, many families have had to go through a very hard time because of the lack of food and what not. I tried to provide basic necessities to 300 families for 2 months. I am also actively involved in programmes for the welfare of children with special needs. And the director of a charity foundation called “Astha” (আস্থা ). Which mainly helps and provides food, medication and shelter for the unprivileged senior citizens of Bangladesh.

Munjarin Abony Breaking Gender Norms in Bangladesh
Munjarin Abony Breaking Gender Norms in Bangladesh

How do you manage your personal and professional life?

Abony: It is often very difficult to do so. Being a mother of a baby daughter who’s growing up, I have to give her most of my time. I have to be around to answer her questions and she asks so many of them! People often think we live a life different from theirs. But it is instead quite similar and we live a life as normal as it gets. We have responsibilities that we need to take care of as well.

What would you advise someone who wants to get into the world of fashion?

Abony: If somebody is looking forward to getting into the media, they first need to decide if this is what they want to pursue. It is very important that you do your research. And know for sure what it is that you want to do. For example. If somebody wants to do modeling there’s a course of 3 months. That I highly recommend one completes before going anywhere else. Different activities require different kinds of preparation. But it should be done with utter seriousness and it shouldn’t be considered an option. Also, needless to say the importance of education. Everyone should at least complete their graduation before they want to try their luck in the world of media.


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