A beacon of resilience
"I had always dreamt of working to help marginalised communities, and I made sure my dream came true," shares 23-year-old Beauti Rani Sikder, a woman who not only takes care of her family on her own but has also dedicated her life to taking care of her community. With her father having left when she was only five years old and her mother tragically passing away a year and a half ago, Beauti was left to fend for herself and her younger sister.
Adding to her list of hardships was the global pandemic that hit Bangladesh in March 2020. "I wouldn't leave the house. It felt like corona was standing outside like a ghost waiting to catch me," says Beauti, recounting the horrifying first few days of lockdown. But she quickly realised that the situation was bigger than her fears. As a Community Facilitator (CF) of Alor Khojey CDC Cluster under the Livelihoods Improvement of Urban Poor Communities (LIUPC) project of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), she couldn't just stay put and let her community at Korail slum suffer.
Putting her fears aside, she went door-to-door with her team and distributed soap, COVID-19 awareness banners and leaflets, and food baskets. "Looking back, I can't believe how I managed to carry out distribution even during heavy rainfall," shares Beauti. Rain, however, wasn't the only barrier she and her team faced. "Sometimes, the police would frisk us or even threaten to take us away if we continued our work," she adds. Even though they were in full PPE gear and had UNDP identification, the national lockdown was still strictly maintained by law enforcement. "Despite all these barriers, we worked day and night, during weekends and even national holidays. It gave us peace of mind knowing that we were doing something great for our community," shares Beauti, who has been working as a CF for over a year now.
Beauti and her team also worked on installing hand washing stations, and they routinely monitored whether people were washing their hands properly and maintaining all COVID-19 safety guidelines. "To avoid having large families using a single hand washing station, we also introduced tippy taps, which are low cost and easy to install. They're like big water bottles that can easily be turned on and off," explains Beauti.
Looking to the future, Beauti hopes to continue her education and become successful and independent, as per her late mother's wishes.
Photo: Rashed Shumon