Volume 2 Issue 78| March 13, 2010 |


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Journey Through Bangladesh

From Sirajganj

Malekha Khatun Stands Tall

Maleka Khatun takes on the evils of poverty head on, and triumphs

Golam Mostafa Jibon

Participants of the REOPA project in Sirajganj

THE lowest depths of poverty is a terrifying place, and can make one consider even the most unthinkable of alternatives. Take the story of Maleka Khatun, 35, of Soydabad village in Sirajganj Sadar upazila.

“I had made up my mind to commit suicide along with my five years old son Nahid. It was impossible for me to carry on after my husband abandoned us. I had no way to earn a living, except for having to beg. Most days would pass without even a single square meal”, said Maleka.

But thankfully, it did not come to that. In her darkest hour, she heard the fateful announcement over a loudspeaker inviting women to join an earth cutting and earthen road construction project. Armed with whatever little hope she had left, she went to Soydabad Union Parishad where the announcement had said they were recruiting. As she stood in the interview queue, waiting for her turn, one can only imagine what must have been going through her mind.

She got her break. Today, two years later, Maleka Khatun finds herself on the right side of the poverty line. Her son now goes to school and she runs a small tailoring shop in her village. “I no longer have to worry about where the next meal is coming from anymore. I earn a steady amount of cash each day”, said Maleka.

Maleka married Fulchan about eight years ago. One year into their marriage, she gave birth to her son Nahid. Soon afterwards, her husband took off for Dhaka, claiming that he will earn a living for a family as a rickshaw-puller, and was never heard from again.

The project Maleka worked for was part of Rural Employment Opportunities for Public Assets (REOPA), a social safety net programme of the Bangladesh Government. When she joined the project in February 8, 2008, she was earning Tk 100 per day. From the amount, she set aside Tk 30 every day for her future. She worked under the project for two years and earned a total of Tk 48,430 during the period, while depositing Tk 20,560 at a bank.

After completing the service period (2 years), Maleka set up her own tailoring shop at her village with her savings. At her shop, she earns a daily net profit of Tk 150 to Tk 200. Business at her shop is good, and she has been able to hire two other to help. Her son Nahid also helps whenever he gets some time off from his studies.

The REOPA programme has provided countless women like Maleka with a ray of hope. Sufia Begum, district officer of REOPA project said that a total of 2460 women including 1116 widows, 236 divorcees, 314 wife of disabled people and 794 abandoned by husband were included at the work of REOPA project in the first cycle at 82 unions under nine upazilas of the district. During their working period, they are also provided with training on nutrition, health care, vegetable farming on homesteads, human rights and entitlements, disaster management and preparedness so that they can protect themselves from any adversities that face them, she said.

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