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     Volume 7 Issue 46 | November 21, 2008 |

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Human Rights

Ten Lives

Raffat Binte Rashid

While most readers are in the comfort of their homes reading this article, they will be pulled out of their uncomplicated life to a realm unimaginably harsh and tastelessly sour. It is hard to decipher what hunger, poverty, suffering can be like for those who come from an established background and possess moderate wealth even if not diamond mines. There are some who prefer a single solitary life, but even then they are stationed in society.

Arunima is the only distress home in Bangladesh for any class of people.

But what if it is the same society that suffocates the person with its cynicism? Those who have lost something as valuable as dignity or wealth are the ones who get to see the other face of society. Take Geeta and Gayetri Dutto. They assumed they would die long ago but instead, life had played a cruel joke at their expense.

Geeta Dutto, a famous actress of a time never had the slightest idea of what was coming in future. Her only family is her sister Gayetri Dutto, who is mute. This pain was rather alleviated by the dedication of Geeta who never got married for her sister's sake. Their lives were following a regular pattern. Geeta used to go to rehearsals and Gayetri used to cook and wait for her at home. Then came a twist in their lives. The relatives took hold off all their properties and suddenly the duo confronted a financial crisis. As both the sisters remained unmarried, they have no children, no spouse and no guardian. A week ago, their landlord threw them out. All their belongings were left behind. The only one who showed any concern at a time take this was a boy named Milon who lived in their neighbourhood and called them “Pishi Ma”. He contacted several shelter-homes only to be refused. The shelters assumed them to be burdens that would soon die and did not want to bother with them.

The reason might also have been Gayetri Dutto who is now both blind and mute. It is hard to imagine what kind of a world she lives in where there is only darkness and where she is unable to express her emotions. Alone, she may wander into the wilderness of the city and get run over. The only one gifted with comprehending her emotions is her sister, who lived with her for years. But what is the condition of Gayetri herself now?

The so-called 'free-of-cost' homes could not even help these two helpless women for a day. Finally, a distress home in Dhaka called Arunima is providing them shelter for two months.

Arunima is the only distress home in Bangladesh for any class of people, namely single mothers, disabled people and senior citizens. It is a self-sustaining organisation and uses the capacity (strength and knowledge) of the distressed of the middle class people who have become insolvent in order to rehabilitate them, it also gives shelter to women abandoned by husbands.

Taslima had a happy home with her husband and two girls. She decorated her little house with all the appliances an average middle class family can own-a TV, a refrigerator, etc.

A month ago the husband suddenly left the family without a second's thought. He did not even think of his two little girls.

Taslima was a graduate but she did not know where to work, leaving her two children. Some had advised her to give up the little one of 6 months for adoption. She could not even bear the thought of it.

One day, the landlord of her house took away all their things and threw them out. Taslima could only bring a kameez and her baby's feeder. She too found shelter and work (to look after a disabled) in Arunima.

Salina Akhter, founder of Arunima and proprietor of Aakor, took it as an obligation to stand by a distressed people. But the organisation has no structure or funds to sustain them. It has various types of programmes where working is possible like the entrepreneurial transfer of Aakor. The first Daily Star Award Winner, Aakor was the brainchild of Salina. She later decided to transfer it to 10 distressed women after training them.

Such a potential entrepreneur is Sumi. She too is another single mother with a two-year-old son who is in such a state that if she does not get support from here she will be compelled to commit suicide, something which she already tried thrice.

Another girl, 20-year-old Shazia, is in the most frightening condition. She never knew who her family was. At a young age, she was sold to a family from her village to do the household chores. But as she was too young, she never remembered the district where she was from. After five years, the only people whom she could call family and who took care of her had to move to London. They gave her ornaments and Tk 25,000 so that she could have a bright future. But where would she live? Finally they decided to give her to the care of a relative.

The new 'family' treated her like a slave. The master, who was also an accomplished lawyer tried to molest her on different occasions. He used to sneak into her room, which she shared with two of his daughters who were around five and nine. When the wife got to know about this, she ordered Shazia to be kicked out. The lawyer talked to a criminal to get her out of the house by marrying her, but Shazia got to hear their conversation. She developed schizophrenic symptoms then and there. Later she was taken for rehabilitation in Arunima where she worked for five years. At the moment, she is still in ward 413 of National Mental Health Institute.

These stories are all moving but true. So is the case of an addict, Sumon (not his real name). When his parents wanted to put him in rehab, he found the times very hard. Sometimes the pain of refraining was so intense that he wanted to kill himself. He sought consultancy from this organisation. After months of rehabilitation, when he finally kicked addiction, he confronted something new and striking. He had an identity of that of an ex-addict and was being refused by all employers. Now he is wondering whether it was worth it to give up drugs or whether he should have just died.

A similar phenomenon engulfs Momita (not her real name). She came to the organisation on November 9, 2008. The 28-year-old is from a well-to-do family and has a Diploma in Engineering. A single mistake took her life away from her. Today she so desperately needs safe refuge that she applied to the old age home of the organisation as a cook. She says, “At least over here no body will harass me and at this moment, that is the most important thing for me.”

Her parents were going to force her to marry so she eloped with her boyfriend. After three months, the 'so-called' husband left her and told her they never got married. Her father had given her a month to look for shelter. But he refused to give her any kind of safety or assistance after that. Today she wants to live with dignity, but she is finding Dhaka to be a cruel place for a single girl.

Arunima has no fund to rehabilitate them permanently. If Gayetri is not treated, she might go blind. Shazia is in a precarious situation. At times she becomes violent and attempts to kill herself.

Arunima is now welcoming funds solely for distressed people who are not capable of generating income and it is also seeking the assistance of the organisations and people who deal with such cases to restore the lives of these 10 individuals For further information, you may visit the centres in Banktown, Savar and Shamoly, Dhaka or contact at +88 01819272568.

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