Hashi Khatun's Centre for Disadvantaged and Disabled Women
Hashi Khatun is a fighter. She is the director of a centre for disadvantaged and disabled women. There is tin shed in Bogra city from where you can hear the voices of children and senior citizens. You can hear the Bangla alphabet being recited. All the poor women of the area know this house. Now they have a deep bond with this place. Anyone can start teaching here after training. This programme exists for the benefit of the poor and the disabled. The reason she feels so much for others, is that she herself is a disabled woman.
Her struggle and her initiative: Hashi Khatun's height used to be 5'3”. She is now only 34 inches tall. This is because she can't stand up. She is forced to crawl. She has only two wooden devices for support. She uses these two little things for help with moving around. She wasn't like this from birth. It happened in 1985. Her husband worked in the army. She lived in her in-laws' home. She had a 14-month-old son. Her husband would rarely contact her. On most days she didn't have enough to eat. She would have to ask people for assistance so she could feed her child. She'd face a lot of abuse in the home she lived in. One day she decided to leave- she packed up and went to the train station. Her father-in-law came after her to get her son. He wanted the boy for the sake of the family. This is when a struggle started between them. The train headed for Bogra showed up at 2:00 pm. She tried to get on the moving train with her child. That's when the horrific incident happened. As the father-in-law tried to grab the son away, Hashi Khatun fell, her feet got caught under the train. Her feet were severed.
She was in the hospital for many days. Her husband didn't even call. He didn't want to associate himself with a wife like this, she would be of no use to the household. His mother got him remarried. Hashi's father Afsar Ali Mollah paid all the expenses for the treatment. Her feet needed to be operated on three times. Where she once stood five foot three, now she is barely 34 inches high. She breaks into tears while describing her story. She is quick to recover her composure. Her strong will to go on remains. Her father, who used to be well-off spent everything he had on her. Her mother and her siblings no longer acted affectionately towards her. She got pretty much cut off from her family. She shared the attitude everyone else had towards her- a disabled woman is a burden to the family. As a way to survive, she took up sewing. She'd sit there all day and work with thread and needles. Anywhere she has gone for work, she has been insulted for being disabled. She hasn't been helped by the social welfare department, the women's ministry or the various NGOs.
The Centre: Her father had left her some land. Using that as collateral, she rented a small house and started helping older disabled and helpless women. She started teaching them handiwork. They'd go to people's doors and do sewing work for very little money. One day she met Benu, a neighbour. This woman was the teacher of a disabled school. Benu Apa helped her. She taught her how to do a tailor's work. She started getting small work orders from various places. She took a 6 month course. An NGO called CDS gave Hashi the advice to start some sort of organisation. Hashi brought together 20-22 disabled people and had a meeting. She told them all the story of her own life.
Now, even though she doesn't have any feet, in a sense she is standing on her own two feet. She is dreaming of making an office for her centre on her father's piece of land. Her younger sister had tried to acquire that land, Hashi had to fight to get it for herself. Right now, Hashi is working with 43 low-income women.
Hashi Khatun is satisfied knowing that she has come a long way without a whole lot of help or pity from anyone. Furthermore, other women are benefiting. She does all her own housework, moving around with the help of two little pieces of wood. She cooks. She teaches. She dreams of going a long way.
(R) thedailystar.net 2008