Pictured: Saleha with her husband and daughters outside their shop
The poverty trap reaches wide – sometimes people fall into its vicious cycle with little warning and without realizing it can take hold so quickly.
This is what happened to Salaeha and her husband Shajahan who live in the Gazipur district.
Their life became very difficult but it wasn’t always like this.
In 2007, and the Chapa Samiti (group) was established with the support of Symbiosis in the Vitipara area. At that time, Saleha was newly married and had just moved to the area. But as she and her husband had some education and her husband lived abroad working they seemed financially well off and she was not interested to join Chapa Samiti.
2 years into their marriage, her husband suddenly became paralysed from the waist down. The situation left them completely destitute as they were required to sell the house and land they had for his medical treatment.
Saleha was seeing darkness in her future and could not think clearly what to do in these circumstances. Saleha was young; she had no idea of how to manage the family’s income. Her knowledge about income improvement was low and she had no training. She had only studied to the 5th grade standard and her husband had only studied up to 7th grade standard. Saleha has two young daughters and her elderly father-in-law and mother-in-law were also living with them, both in poor health. Because of this turmoil from illness in the family, there were often quarrels.
Members of Chapa Samiti became aware of Saleha’s hardship and admitted her to the group. At the beginning it was difficult for her to save even Tk. 2 (0.028 AUD) per week in the group fund and her condition was getting worse day by day.
When they heard Saleha’s situation, the Padma community based organisation (CBO) Leaders who work in the same area met with and encouraged her to do something to earn income with them. Training for income-generating work was organized for Saleha. Then Padma arranged to establish a grocery shop for her family by giving a loan to her. Symbiosis managed to provide a wheelchair for her husband and Padma CBO managed to provide an elderly allowance card for her mother-in-law and rice card for the family. With these connections, Saleha was able to emerge from the difficult situation that she faced.
Through Symbiosis, Saleha has also become knowledgeable in primary health care, nutritious food, usage of sanitary latrine, importance of tree plantation and other social issue management. She is now happier and more confident and wants to expand her grocery shop. Her dream is to educate her children to higher studies.
Access to quality education and decent work with fair wages and a stable income is a fundamental pathway out of poverty. But it is also a critical resilience mechanism to stop people from being pushed into poverty’s grasp.
Saleha’s situation also demonstrates why the Symbiosis model doesn’t stop with savings groups alone. Community based organizations like Padma offer another level of community connection, recovery and resilience building mechanisms for people beyond what income generation and Symbiosis can provide alone. This is why our vision and activities will always work towards transformation within communities.
This story was collected by the Gazipur Integrated Development Project (GIDP) which is led by Project Manager Farida.