"I grew up in a remote countryside village. You know, nearly most of the Bangladeshi ‘Adivasi’ (indigenous) people lived in the isolated area. Indigenous societies are matrilineal. The inheritance of property possesses through daughters. Maybe for that reason my father married three times. We are thirteen siblings. My father has some arable land. Yet he used to cultivate occasionally. That stood as the primary reason behind our poverty. Though we are a matrilineal society, my mother didn’t go to work in the paddy land. My brothers work in the field. Occasionally other sisters used to work. But I did not do any work in my father’s home because I was the youngest of all, father loved me. None of my brothers and sisters went to school. Me as well. Most of our children from the ‘Shantal’ community don’t go to school. That’s the culture. There was another culture. In my childhood, most of the night, I saw a weird scene. My father came home with a bottle of ‘Cholai’ (home-made distilled liquor). He used to drink it and tortured mother. I watched and wept. Who knows, this woe is also on my forehead.
When I was sixteen, I got married. It was a Rajaraji marriage (a marriage where the individuals love each other and get married). We were introduced into our village hat (weekly market). I loved him. Following two months of marriage, I went to his house. His home was far away from our home. I was surprised to find his home. So far all that he said about his family and the financial complaint was false. However, I have accepted. But after some days, his behaviour began to change. He stopped working in the field. When I asked him then he started behaving badly with me. Gradually, it became worse and he started torturing me physically. At one time, I came to know that earlier he married three times. Two of them had committed suicide. The sky fell on my head. My relatives assured me since now he has no other wife, you better stay with him. Depend on their words, I forgot everything and started living with him again. At one time, he stopped doing all kinds of work and pressurized me to take dowry from my father. Thinking of the happiness of my life, my father sold his favourite plot of land and gave my husband the money for business. But alas, he started drinking more! There was no trace of business. Meanwhile, there is no food in the house day after day and I started working as a day labourer on other's land. After that, my father gave him a job of caretaker in an office. Some days later he left it and came to the village and started to torture me. Meanwhile, the most important incident happened in my life. I gave birth to Monika. At that point, my husband made the big delinquency. He denied the paternity of the girl. He told everyone that this child is not his. I could not show my face in front of people in shame. Later, when community leader pressured him for taking the responsibility for the child then he accepts it. But he told me, if I can bear the expense of the child and the family then he will accept it. I agreed but it was so difficult to stay with him. I used to work on land with weak health and earn money. On the other hand, my husband drinks alcohol with that money. Even, he didn’t buy my daughter’s food and medicine. So I divorced him. I come to TLMI (The Leprosy Mission International). I want to live like me."
Konika is a mother from TLMI waiting to join The Sreepur Village with her two-year-old daughter. While the mainstream Bangladeshi women are also facing violence, social stigma and oppression the women of the different indigenous group are also facing the same problems. The economic, social and domestic violence affects these indigenous women more intensively. They lead a chancy and sensitive life. At this moment The Sreepur Village is supporting more than ten indigenous mothers and we are pleased to say we are ready to welcome Konika.
We share with you a story of Sharifa, a mother who has had her fair share of struggles in life and who recently, along with her family, visited Sreepur to share with us her successes in life.
The sudden death of Sharifa's husband in late 2004 left her as the sole provider for her four children. With no one to turn to for help, Sharifa felt lonely, scared and desperate for her family's future survival.