Educated and awarded, but at what cost?
She earned fame, respect and prestigious awards for her outstanding achievement as the first graduate in her community.
However, all things appear futile, as she still lives from hand to mouth because of unemployment.
"Most of the people around me, including my family members, neighbours, friends and relatives sneer at me now. It seems that I have done something wrong by studying," said Sonu Rani Das.
She, despite all odds, achieved the distinction of being the first graduate among the Dalit community living in the sweeper colony of Tanbazar in Narayanganj.
"I was brought up in an environment where people are marginalised to the extreme, partly by religious sanctions and partly by social and economic deprivations," she said.
Language is a barrier as they communicate mainly in Hindi whereas the academic curriculum is in Bangla. She says many are held back by this barrier. Other problems facing the Dalit community include, of course, child marriage.
Sonu, too, got married at an early age. But she was lucky to have a supportive and understanding life partner who always stood by her.
Her struggles were reported in different media and she was bestowed with "Unsung Women: Nation Builders Awards 2020" by IPDC Finance Limited and The Daily Star.
"I am frustrated. Everything is meaningless to me now as I cannot manage a job," Sonu told The Daily Star recently.
"I tutor some students, who also belong to our community. Seeing my condition, they tell me that they do not have much interest in education. If I could manage a job, they would be interested to study," she said.
Quoting her students, Sonu added, "Previously, they (students) respected me a lot. But now many of my students tell me that you (Sonu) have not got anything by studying. So, what will we get following in your path?"
Some of her relatives undermine her, even using abusive words, as Sonu said quoting them, "We are illiterate. But we earn around Tk 20,000 per month working as sweepers. How much do you (Sonu) earn, despite having such high education?"
"My life has now become miserable due to unemployment," said Sonu.
Talking about her multiple efforts for a job, Sonu said, "I have visited many government officials, and private and international development agencies seeking a job. But I did not get any result."
"I even went to Narayanganj City Corporation Mayor, local lawmakers and some other politicians and businessmen. They assured me a job. But the assurances were not implemented," she added.
Expressing frustration, Sonu's husband Goutam Das said, "We faced multiple challenges in our society while continuing my wife's education. But now, as she is still unemployed, we are facing social disgrace."
Contacted, Narayanganj City Corporation Mayor Selina Hayat Ivy said Sonu would have to come through official procedure and must qualify in examination, if she wants any government job.
"If she wants any private job, we will surely help her," the mayor assured. ###