A women-only hostel where safety comes first
The state of gender relations in Bangladesh stands at such a precarious position that the lived experience of all women, across any strata, is filled with fear, anxiety, and even paranoia. The outrage currently gripping the country over rape and gender-based violence is an indictment that the problem is very real. However, life does not stop, and in spite of their utter discomfort, many women have to travel alone, while some need to stay the night, away from the safety of their families.
In such cases, accommodation in expensive hotels is hard to afford for many, and cheap hotels may not also suffice due to inadequate security measures.
Taking these issues into consideration, Bidyanondo Foundation has established "Bashonti Nibash" in March. Inaugurated on Women's Day, this women-only hostel is located in Pallabi, Mirpur, with continuous CCTV surveillance, and other security measures. A night's stay costs Tk 199.
The hostel provides affordable accommodation to women, and includes contemporary requirements like Wi-Fi, air-conditioning, laundry services and a computer zone. It does not allow a prolonged stay, although under special circumstances, it allows guests to stay a maximum of seven days.
For students staying for one night, the same package is offered only at Tk 1 for the first night, and Tk 199 per night from the second night onwards.
"Our volunteers have to travel a lot for work," says Rakhima Khatun, a volunteer of the foundation who manages Bashonti Nibash. "During one such trip, a volunteer and her husband checked into a cheap hotel for the night, where they fell victim to harassment by a few local miscreants."
"The issue was later brought up by the volunteer in a conversation with our founder, who pledged to establish an affordable and safe hostel for women. That's how our journey began," she said.
Rakhima said, "The premises are under CCTV surveillance, and no men are allowed to enter the hostel. Volunteers are present to help the guests settle in. Besides, we have notified the local police station of how we operate, and if needed, we can always seek help from them."
Currently, the hostel can accommodate up to 36 guests. Each guest is provided with their own bunk bed in the form of medium-sized capsules. They also have private shower and bathroom facilities, with a small dining area as well.
"I came to know about the hostel from a friend," said Jyotika Khisa Joyi, a college student visiting from Khagrachhari. "The best part about this place is that girls can stay here alone without fear, and that too for such a low cost," adds Joyi.
Farjana Zabin Dola, visiting the capital from Kushtia for medical purposes, said, "The current situation regarding women's safety in our country is distressing. But with the security facilities at this hostel, parents can feel assured to let their daughters stay here."