I always tremble with the thought I might one day be known as a ‘Rakkhusi’ (witch). At one time it became the truth. Born into a poor family I got married to a day labourer. He was 25 years older than me. Soon after the marriage, he became unable to provide an income due to a serious health problem despite this he was able to give me children. Sometimes I think men are experts at child production even if they can do nothing else. So within three years of conjugal life, I give birth to two children. My husband’s health deteriorated but his relatives did not give much importance to his treatment instead they blamed me. No sooner had he died the village shunned me and called me a ‘husband-eater’. Even my husband’s relatives beat me if I asked for food for my children. Through his death the domestic and social discrimination against me started in full swing. I know that my children deserve the inheritance property of their father and I also deserve some property but they refuse to acknowledge this. I became the head of my household on the death of my husband nonetheless they didn’t give me a single penny. My parents also rejected to provide me shelter so I came to Dhaka. I started working in a garment factory, they paid me less than other new employees. In addition to poor wages, they tried to sexually exploit me. Then I felt the scarcity of a guardian.
There I met with Kamal. A rickshaw puller. Men hardly want to marry a widow with children to bear the responsibilities, but he promised me he would help take care of my children. After a year, we got married. It was my second wrong doing. When I went to his house, I shocked to find he had another wife and they had four children. Because of this provided a shelter for me and my children and the fact that my husband’s behaviour was good, I stayed there. I gave birth to two children. Unfortunately, he died in a road accident and yet again I was generally blamed for my husband’s death. The common story starts once more; the story of exploitation and violence at the hands of my husband’s previous wife, children and relatives. However, he was a good man and had documented land in the name of my two children (his legitimate). I had a bit of confidence in getting the property, but again I was forced on to the street. There was nobody who could help me to claim my children’s lawful property rights.
The tale of Jesmin is the story of five million widows of Bangladesh. At this moment, like Jesmin there are 42 widows in The Sreepur Village. The widows of all ages in rural Bangladesh endure extreme poverty, isolation, violence, destitution, ill health and discrimination in law and custom. A lack of inheritance and land rights, widow abuse and the rules of remarriage practices of widows are prime examples of human rights violations. Among the neglected women of society, they are the most vulnerable. The Sreepur Village is working to rehabilitate these mothers with their children for their development and for a better future.
The scenario of widows in rural Bangladesh is even worse than that of urban areas. In addition to poor wages, they are sexually exploited and denied basic human rights. They are discriminated by their husband’s family and do not have any space at their maternal home. Besides being illiterate, they have no skills with which they can earn a living. They find themselves cornered from all sides. The widows in rural Bangladesh suffer multiple problems, disadvantages and deprivations.
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The environment in which women can acquire and retain literacy skills is shaped by various forms of social, economic and religious restrictions and for poverty-stricken women in rural Bangladesh, the opportunity to study is simply not an option. Instead many women stay at home spending most of their lives as housewives. which can create conditions where literacy skills can be lost which in turn leads to a new form of vulnerability. Our mothers are the best example of this vulnerability.
The Sreepur Village believes in addressing women's literacy to improve confidence and the quality of lives. This helps to reduce poverty, increases work opportunities and in doing so improves the mother and child’s health and well-being.