Stevie Rudak | March 29, 2023

Building up Bangladesh: Creating a Street Festival 

Professor founds annual neighborhood celebration in her home country to uplift the community and combat an ongoing mental health crisis.

Citizens of Bangladesh at Parra Utshab

In 2019, the city of Dhaka, Bangladesh, adopted the celebration of Paara Uthshab (which translates to “neighborhood festivity”) created by Dr. Rehnuma Karim, an adjunct faculty of Liberal Studies and Recreation, Therapeutic Recreation, and Tourism, through her non-profit organization Heroes for All.

Karim was inspired by street festivals held in New York City when coming up with the concept of the festival.

“I wanted to create that similar space where people can come together and connect,” said Karim.

Parra Utshab consists of a variety of activities including street games, live music, puppet shows, traditional food, talent shows, and a chance to interact with local businesses. It is a time when the rich culture of Bangladesh is on display for citizens to reconnect with and celebrate. 

I wanted to create that similar space where people can come together and connect.
Rehnuma Karim

Karim officially founded Heroes for All in 2016. She collaborated with students in her Non-Profit Management course to develop a non-profit organization that would provide support in communities to help the youth understand the benefits of a purposeful life.

“Many students told me they don’t know what to do after graduation or whether what they are doing is aligned with what they want,” Karim said. “That’s when I knew I needed to focus in this area and make a difference in young people’s lives.”

Through academic research, Karim found that festivities play a large role in building a positive spirit and establishing meaningful community relationships. Noticing that her home country of Bangladesh was struggling in this area, she aimed to make a difference.

Mayor of Dhaka North playing chess at Paara Utshab

Mayor of Dhaka North playing chess at Paara Utshab

“The community spirit (in Bangladesh) was deteriorating,” said Karim. “The recent data from a Bangladesh mental health organization stated that 480 teenagers committed suicide in the last eight months after the pandemic.”

In 2019, Karim presented her non-profit organization’s proposal for Paara Utshab to the Mayor of Dhaka North, the capital of Bangladesh. The mayor fully supported Karim’s unique idea and even added it to his re-election campaign.

Now, Paara Utshab has become an annual event, with thousands of people flooding the streets to celebrate their cultural heritage.