A woman is breaking the stereotype as well as earning solvency by butchering cattle in Birganj upazila of Dinajpur.
Jamila Begum and her husband Zahir Hossain opened a meat shop at Jharbari Bazaar of the upazila some 19 years ago. Zahir used to slaughter and skin the animals while Jamila used to look after the accounts initially.
But Zahir was a drug addict, recalled Jamila.
The 49-year-old was married off to Zahir when she was 16. The couple has two children.
“After five years of marriage, I got to know that he was addicted to drugs. We lived in Bogura where he ran the family by rickshaw-pulling. But in 2000, we had to shift to my father’s place at Debarupara village in Birganj because he was in too much debt,” said Jamila.
“I took up the job because I wanted to save my husband from drug addiction, but I failed. After shifting here, we remained jobless for a month. Gradually we arranged Tk 25,000 and started selling beef at Jharbari Bazaar,” she told this paper.
“Things went smoothly for two years, but situation started to deteriorate in 2005.
“Zahir used to torture me almost every day for money. He wasted Tk 2.82 lakh and when he failed to pay back the lenders, he left us. I still do not know where he is now,” she said.
Jamila then had to face the wrath of the lenders. “I realised that I had to stand on my own feet by any means. So I took up the butcher’s job.”
Jamila’s business is now thriving. She has not only managed to clear the debts but also has built a home in her village.
She opens her shop every day at 6 in the morning and passes busy time until around 3:30pm. Sheearns Tk 700-1000 daily. Her son Jahurul helps her at the shop while her daughter Salma reads at grade-VIII at Jharbari High School.
“I slaughter at least one cow daily. I buy the cattle, slaughter, skin the animal, make pieces of the meat, and sell them. On Fridays, I have to butcher two or three cows as people eat a lot of beef that day,” Jamila said.
“Initially I was frowned at for taking up the job being a female. But now the villagers and other male butchers have accepted me. They even come to help me sometimes,” she went on.
“Jamila is well-known for her profession in the village. She sells quality meat,” said Jakir, a youth of Debarupara.
Rafiqul Islam, an elderly butcher of Dinajpur, said, “I had long been in this profession but never heard of a female butcher. Jamila might be the only female butcher of the country,” he told this correspondent when asked about Jamila.