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Poverty elimination through women empowerment

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Reza Mahmud :
Widows have overcome adversaries with the small donation taken from a NGO in the Lalmonirhat district's Aditmari upazila. Some of them built poultry and cows fattening farms with the donation changing their livelihood.
Forty years old Rawshan Ara Ranu lives in Binnagari village of Aditmari upazila in Lalmanirhat district. She lost her husband 10 years ago.
After her husband's death, she faced a terrible world with her three little children and husband's parents.
She did not know how to maintain a family of six members.
When she was in such a helpless situation a UK based NGO Islamic Relief Bangladesh started working in Aditmari upazila in 2015.
The NGO granted Ranu's family as an orphan beneficiary one under the Alternative Orphan Family Sponsorship Program through sustainable livelihood (ALO) project.  As part of the project, a self-help forum was formed with all the members of widows and orphans of the area.  The NGO sanctioned her interest less and non refundable grant of Tk 18 thousand.  She was imparted a short training on cow fattening.
The NGO also allotted each of her school going child Taka five hundred every months.
Ranu saw ray of survival. At first she bought a cow. Within months of rearing, the cow became fat enough to sell.
She earned handful profit selling the cow. Ranu refunded the money to their forum which was formed with widows and got more from it.
After paying back the loan amount to their forum, she again took Tk 40,000 as loan from the group fund to start a poultry farm. Ranu is now a self reliable person in her area.  She built a large poultry farm, bought one day aged chickens from a hatchery. After rearing the chicken for months, she sold them in the kitchen market.  Traders from kitchen markets used to buy chickens from Ranu's farm.
In this way, Ranu became solvent one. She constructed a building in a land at Rangpur city which her late husband bought.  She gave rented the building rooms and is earning a good amount.
There are many other success stories about widows of the district who got the help from the NGO and successfully said goodbye to poverty.
Mukta Begum in the same village is one of them. She also lost her husband suddenly seven years ago.
Mukta got married to Md Badiur Rahman when she was a student of class-VIII.  Badiar was a typist in the upazila land registration office and used to earn his livelihood by cultivating 12 decimals of land.  The couple had a comfortable life with their two daughters.
But Badiur died when her elder daughter was just in class-III. His death left Mukta in unbearable situation.
She had fallen to a very hard time. It became almost impossible for her to manage family expenses. Her husband had not left land and savings for them to survive.  At that point, IRB granted Mukta's family as an widow and orphan beneficiary one under the ALO project.
Mukta was elected secretary of the self-help forum and got IRB's three-day leadership development, group mobility and financial management training.
From the Islamic Relief Bangladesh's ALO project, Mukta also received Tk 500 every month as education stipend to pay for her each daughter's education.
With the help of Department of Livestock Services, Mukta participated in training on cow rearing.
Then she has started her cattle fattening business with two cows.
Now she leads a comparatively happy life with the cow farm.
She also became a reliable source of help to her poor neighbors and relatives as she came forward to help them in their times of need.
In this way, she was elected president of the upazila self-help forum in 2017.  
The government has also recognized her contributions. Aditmari Upazila Administration provided her with an honorary crest on Begum Rokeya Day in 2017.  Besides, Ranu and Mukta, out of total 650 widows, including 67 from the Hindu community, have received same support from Islamic Relief Bangladesh and have seen their lives change for the better. Almost all of them have made themselves morally strong and confident through graining the financial ability to run their families.
The group members used to meet every week to discuss the ways to solve their problems and fined the ways to invest their money.
The project of IRB provided leadership development, group mobility and financial management training, entrepreneurial development and business management training to the widows.
While visiting the area in Lalmonirhat recently, this correspondent spoke to, apart from Rawshan Ara Ranu, Mukta Begum, Marzina Begum, Varati Rani and others who shared stories of their plight and subsequent successes through the help of IRB. They said that being empowered by the training, they had gained leadership qualities and now they could deal with their matters on their own. All the 650 women get widow allowances provided by the government. The can pursued the local representatives easily to include them in the government facilities like Allowances for the Widow, Deserted and Destitute Women.  
"Before taking training from the NGO, we feel serious shyness to talk even with local society leaders. But now we can easily go to union and upazila chairmen offices or other government offices to realize our every rights without any hesitations," said Varati Rani, a resident of Rotherpara village of the same upazila.
Meanwhile, the others widows of the forum said they are now enjoying respect, honor and dignity instead of negligence from the society.  
Apart from these, IRB also formed orphan student's club to increase their intellectual development through various activities.
Shafiul Azam, Co-Ordinator of Islamic Relief Bangladesh Advocacy and Communications, Told The New Nation, "We are working to ensure the quality of living conditions of the vulnerable and orphan children and widows to increase capacity, restore social status, and to ensure right and justice through this project."
Aditmari Upazila Social Services Officer Md Abdul Jalil told The New Nation, "Although we can provide training, we cannot give money to the widows. But Islamic Relief organised the women and alloted Tk 18,000 donation to each family for entrepreneurship development. It contributed as real empowerment of the women."
Speaking to The New Nation, District Manager of the ALO project Md Mahmudul Alam said, "We have trained them and tagged them with different government and private projects and activities so that they can continue to run their business development later."

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