Khodeja Begum is a 26 year-old ultra-poor woman in Pateshor village at Bhurungamari Upazilla, Kurigram district. In 1993, she lost all of her land due to river erosion and became homeless, taking took shelter in Gucchogram village. She lost both her parents that same year and so Khodeja married with Mr. Sabur when she was only 12 years old. She has a physically-challenged child. Her husband suffers from hysteria, and is unable to work so Khodeja has to try to earn the family’s livelihood. She had no idea about the Government’s social safety-net scheme nor any rights or claims she could make on the state.
One day, she heard rickshaw loudspeakers advertise that the Rural Maintenance Program (RMP), implemented by local government, was seeking to employ women as daily labourers. Khodeja then applied through the Union Parishod and she was selected for the scheme through open lottery. However, the cluster representative (ward member) demanded Tk. 5,000/- as donation for this contract. Khodeja remembered one thing that she learnt from the Federation – that no-one can demand any donation to obtain an opportunity from the state. She shared this matter with Federation members who then communicated with the elected UP member. The UP member became very angry and warned them not to disclose this. However, Federation members then approached the Upazilla Nirbahi Officer (UNO). By this time, the UP Chairman came to know the situation and finally included Khodeja’s name in the beneficiary list.
Khodeja said, “without the Federation’s experience and support, I would not have obtained work, although I was entitled to it”. As a result, Khodeja is now something of a local activist – she was elected president of the Women’s Forum at Paikarchora Union Samajkallan Federation and plans to help other deprived women struggle for their rights”.