SWAPNO Stories

Swapna Rani: A Story of Perseverance

Posted on 29 Mar, 2017

Swapna Rani, born in a poverty-stricken family, was married off at the age of twelve, unprepared for marriage and the difficult adjustment dealing with in-laws whom she didn’t know. Her husband was a day labourer. Since Swapna was only a child, she found it very hard to please her husband and complete household chores to his satisfaction, and she became subject to physical and mental domestic abuse.

Swapna Rani-electric tricycleSoon after marriage, Swapna became pregnant and gave birth to a baby girl. The abuse from her husband only worsened, as baby girls are often less valued in rural society in Bangladesh. She persevered though, concerning herself only with the well-being of her child. Unfortunately, her daughter, suffering from malnourishment and ill health, died at the age of four. After this tragedy, Swapna took up work as a housemaid in the neighbourhood to earn extra money for the family. Later, she started working as an assistant to a mason. Within the next three years, Swapna gave birth to two more children: a girl and a boy. After the birth of her third child, Swapna’s husband beat her mercilessly and she was hospitalised for 15 days.

“Then my brothers went to see me and brought me back to my parents’ house”, says Swapna. “They lodged a case against my husband, but he went into hiding. Then, my sister in-law started abusing me. My misfortune never left me until I got employment with the SWAPNO project. One morning, while I was working on a construction site, I heard a loudspeaker announcement about SWAPNO employment. Since all the selection criteria matched with me, I went to the union council office and queued up. God was kind to me that day and finally I got 18 months’ employment with the project. I have learnt qualities of a leader, my rights and entitlements as a resident of this soil, how to choose low-cost food items with high nutritional value and how to run income generating activities profitably.”

After joining the SWAPNO savings and investment scheme, Swapna began goat rearing and stitching prayer-caps. With multiple sources of income, she could buy a small piece of homestead land. Since she had been working so hard to maintain her family, the chairman of the Union Council recommended her to get an electric tricycle (‘baby taxi’) from the company BORAK as a one-time grant. Swapna prefers to carry women and children, as they are given less priority by male drivers. Now she earns a net income of Taka 550 (US$ 7) per day.

Swapna says, “I do not want my children to face the misery I had to cope with. My daughter is studying in the ninth grade and my son is in nursery school. I want to ensure their higher education to become government officers. My job with SWAPNO has been completed, but I am confident to drive away misfortune and poverty with my easy bike.”

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Written by: Kajal Chatterjee, Edited by: Göran Jonsson