Purpose of Narijibon Blog

Nari Jibon Project seeks to increase our students’ and staffs’ abilities through different ways: classes, practice, computers, internet, and now the Narijibon Blog. Readers and writers (our students & staff) of the Blog will both learn about our lives, culture, Nature, activities of people in Bangladesh and the Nari Jibon Project.

Friday, August 3, 2007

A Tale of a Migrant Women in Bangladesh

Written By: Taslima Akter & M.G. Rabbany

Sheikh Rumana is a name of a woman who works hard who organized five thousand of migrant women but she is not aged, she is only about 31 years old. Now she is an Executive Director of “Bangladeshi Ovibasi Mohila Sramik Association (BOMSA)”. She is also Founder General Secretary of that Organization. We have taken her interview dated 25th July at her house at 8 pm at night. She replied every of our question gladly and gave description of her struggling life.

Sheikh Rumana was born at Nobabgonj thana under Dhaka district in 1976. Nobabgonj is situated very near to north Dhaka. She passed her child hood with her birth family. She has two elder sisters and one younger brother. Her father worked in the ship companies as a labor and mother was mere a housewife. But they are no more today. At her childhood their financial condition was not so good. After completing study up to class-10 she stopped her academic study.

Then she started her working life. In 1992, she joined in a garment factory as an operator. But she could work there only five months. After joining in that garment factory she observed that workers did not get their salary timely and they did not get their overtime money properly. Many garment workers (including her) did not receive their salary for several months. Garment workers started to agitate for their salary and overtime money. With some garment workers Sheikh Rumana also started to lead them. As a result Sheikh Rumana and some garment workers lost their job from that garment factories. In the meantime Sheikh Rumana became a member of BIGUF.

Then Sheikh Rumana thought she would not work in any garment factory in Bangladesh. She would go another country. One of her sister (cousin) worked in a garment factory in Malaysia. She herself communicated with a manpower broker agency which used to send garment workers to the Malaysia. She got visa for two years and she was contracted with a garment factory at Malaysia. She had to pay to that agency 45000 taka for her visa and to migrate there and she somehow collected that money by the help of her birth family. Before going to the Malaysia she and other garment workers were informed that they would receive 450 Rt (Malaysia’s Money) per month but after starting work she and other garment workers used to not receive any fixed money. They used to receive money on the basis of productions. Thus she could earn 250 to 300 Rt (Malaysian money) per month. She used to get food and accommodation facilities where she and other garment workers felt security at Malaysia. She and other garment workers were trained before starting work in Malaysia because machines and other equipments were not same. Their working hours were hold 8.30 am in the morning to 5.00 pm. She worked there for about six years four months. She returned in Bangladesh in 1998.

In the reply of differences of working environment between two countries as a woman worker she told that

Income: Bangladesh garment players pay very low salary to the garment workers. Garment workers receive so less salary that they can not go their life with their hard working income. But garment workers of Malaysia receive much salary. They can go on their life well with their income.

She also said that she observed from her several surveys that garment players of Bangladesh did not want to follow of govt. minimum salary rules which acquired garment workers with their long agitation.

Overtime money: Garment players of Bangladesh make the workers long time overtime work and it has no fixed hours and fixed money. Sometimes garment workers don’t get overtime money or receive less money. But in Malaysia garment workers receive double payment of overtime money and generally they can do two hours overtime work. In Bangladesh garment workers have to work at night shift but there is no night shift work in the garment factories at Malaysia.

Salary receiving: Garment workers in Malaysia receive their salaries in fixed time but Bangladesh garment workers don’t receive their salaries in time. Often we can see in The Daily Newspaper that garment workers are agitating for their due salaries.

She also said that the environment of garment factories in Malaysia and Bangladesh have much difference. Usually she did not find any difference between male and female garment workers at Malaysia but in Bangladesh women garment workers face many problems than male garment workers.

In the reply of when a woman worker faces problem/harass in the abroad or Malaysia, she told that the employer authority keeps passport and some other documents to them. It is a great problem to the worker as if a worker wants to work another where to earn more she/he can not go. Sometimes worker leaves his/her workplace but he/she can not take her passport and other documents, then she/ he faces serious problem. She or he harasses by the police and other people.

Sheikh Rumana returned in Bangladesh in 1998 after working there six years four months long. After coming in Bangladesh she started to meet with her old friend who worked with her in the garment factory of Bangladesh. She also kept communication with BIGUF where she involved when she worked in the factory of Bangladesh. In the meantime she took three months training at ALSC on workers right, relation with employers. After completing her training she also worked as a trainer in this organization. Then she and Lily Sheikh Rumana one of her friend organized migrant women and founded “Bangladeshi Ovibasi Mohila Sramik Association, (BOMSA)”. It was then 1999. She also worked in Bangladesh Legal Aid as part time. She also worked in several organizations’ research projects on garment workers and migrant women as research assistant. Like as, she worked (2003 to 2005) two years follow up longitudinal research project on garment workers under SIU-IUB research project as a field research project. Besides she works as an executive director of her organization.

She has vast knowledge on women’s life, women workers’ life, their violence etc. At the beginning time she faced many problems to collect members of her organization. She gave an example of her experience.

She expressed one of her salty experiences when she went to collect a member for her migrant association. One day she heard that a woman returned in Bangladesh who was harassed much in abroad. After reaching there she saw that she (migrant woman) was living in a hut with her mother in law. She faced problem when she wanted to meet with them. They thought that she (Sheikh Rumana) and Lily Sheikh Rumana were the members of brokers. In the meantime some more neighboring people came to see them. She and Lily were blockaded by them. Then she showed her identity card and introduced her. She also told them that she came to them to help them. Then they became calm quite. She informed that that woman was sent to the Jordan and she worked as a house maid. She worked 19th months to the 19th employers’ houses. But she did not receive any money in this long period. Besides she was harassed brutally and at last she was sent to the country cutting her hair. Sheikh Rumana wanted her passport but she told that she burnt her passport. Sheikh Rumana wanted to file a case but that woman was interested to file any case. Sheikh Rumana gave her some money and Sheikh Rumana also arranged a press conference.

In the reply of her future plan she told that she wants secure migration of all the women. She also told that at present 4 million Bangladeshi are working in abroad and among them only 6% people are women. Day by day the numbers of women workers are increasing. At the beginning time of her organization it was only 1% but now 6%. She wants everyone secure migration. She also told that she already visited more than 10 countries to participate in various seminars and met with migrant women.

At the end she was asked whether she will get married or not and experience of married life, she replied that she has enough experience of married life, conjugal conflict in our society and so she is care to get married. After all her relatives and guardians to get her married but still to date she did not find out such kind of person whom she likes. Probably she will get married if she finds out a suitable person whom she can trust.


kbw said...

taslima e sujan...nice piece. make sure that the blog indicates that you wrote it...it was only posted by animesh (thanks)..but the reader version says written by animesh.

a picture of sheikh rumana?

keep up the good research work, taslima and sujan! i hope to hear more such stories and pls post the bangla version on the amader golpo blog! kbw

Arifin Hussain said...

great bangladehi blog.
thnks for those nice articles.

Unknown said...

Dear Taslima Akter
Thank you very much for writing the article on Rumana Sheikh. I wanted to ask you whether it is ok for me to quote bits of it. I am researcher from New Zealand who spent 3 months in Bangladesh working on a research on civil society organisations and migration policy with RMMRU under a DRC fellowship. I had the pleasure to meet Rumana Sheikh at their Rampura office personally and interviewed her twice in April and June 2008. However, although a translator was with me the second time, we still had language issues (I cannot speak Bangla), thus, I have taken information from your article when I felt there were gaps in my notes. These bits have been properly referred as 'Akter & Rabanny, 2007'. I have also included the link to the article in the bibliography. This will be part of the chapter that tells the story of BOMSA.
Thank you very much
Carola Reyes

Bradly Jones said...

this is a wonderful tale. I really enjoyed it. I don’t know how Bangladeshi women do it, but they deserve more respect than they receive. Regardless of whether raising a child or having a job and feeding a whole family, the life is hard but these women are strong.

call Bangladesh