by: Sonu Rani Das
Young residents from poor communities of Narayanganj Municipality expressed their feelings, concerns and aspirations about their lives to me. The importance of education and emotional support from family members and friends in order to pursue their dreams has been highlighted in the following articles. As practitioner a practitioner I am working on youth empowerment in different slum communities in Bangladesh.
Sheila’s Story told by herself
I am Sheila Akther, a young woman from Rally Bagan. I am studying in the second year of Bangla honours (graduation). I was born in a poor family. We have five members in my family: my parents, my brother, my sister and me. My father is a watcher’s repairs in a shop in Dhaka and does not have a fix income. His average salary is 100 Taka (Bangladesh’s currency) per day but sometimes he only gets 50 Taka per day.
The lack of an adequate house is one of the issues faced by our family. Our house is very hot during the summer because of its building material: wood, tin and the walls are built half brick wall and half tin. During the raining season, the water comes inside our house which makes life very difficult to cope. Another problem faced by our family is the lack of health security to support the entire family when a family member is ill. If my father becomes sick, we don’t have any income. In 2008, my father became very ill and my older sister had to stop to attend school because we could not afford any payment for her education. When my father was sick, my mother had to start to work in the garment sector to provide us the necessary financial resources.
Picture: In the background is Sheila’s home. Because of lack of space in her community for a school, she is using her house as a classroom for her 30 students. Her NGO financially contributes to maintain the space.
In my family, we value the importance of education. For this reason, I am doing whatever is necessary to continue my studies. However, lack of financial resources affects our education. As an example, my older sister could not continue her studies once she finished her Secondary School Certificate.
I was lucky that my friend Sonu helped me to find work to enable me to continue my studies. Currently I am teaching 30 pupils in a multi-grade school at the NGO Surobi, I also provide extra-curriculum tutorial for students outside my community. I earn 1,500 Taka per month. This work is giving me the opportunity to continue my studies and financially support my family. I would like to complete my studies which will give me the opportunity to get a good job. Education is a way for me to progress.
Meena Rani Das
I live in Tanbazar Pouro Community. My community is a Dalit community ("Untouchables" community). My father is a government employee working at the hospital. Our family consists of seven members (three girls, two boys and my parents). And my father is the only member in the family with a fix income.
Dalits are discriminated outside our community. Within my community, I face discrimination for being a girl. As an example, I have the story of my older sister. She is an intelligent young women and she always liked to complete her full education cycle. When she finished her Primary School (Grade Five) my parents decided that she should stop her studies. They think that girl’s education is a waste of money. In addition to my parents, my grandmother and uncle think that if she goes outside our community she will be bad influenced. In order to prevent my sister’s freedom, my family arranged her wedding when she was only 17 years old.
My sister’s wedding was a great event. In our caste system, the family of the bride has to pay for all the arrangements of the party (e.g. dresses, jewellery, etc). The wedding was very nice but my parents spent lots of money with it. They had to take a loan because they did not have enough money.
Picture: Meena at home.
Today my sister is happy in her marriage. However, we are facing lots of problems since her wedding. Half of my father’s salary has to repay the loan he made for the wedding which has put us in a very bad financial situation.
Education is also very important to me. I received the support from the World Vision to finish my Secondary School Certificate. Currently, I am working as a teacher for the NGO Surovi where I teach 30 students from my community. One of the problems in my family is the lack of understanding about the value of education. My parents wanted to organize my wedding as well. Because they are in debt because of my sister’s wedding, that they can’t organize. For me to finish my Higher Secondary Certificate, I received some financial support from my uncle. After finishing it, I had to stop because my parents did not want to give permission for me to continue my studies.