Widow allowance changes lives of destitute women

By Tahamina Islam Talukder

DHAKA, 18 April, 2017 (BSS) -The ordeal of Baby Begum, Rina Begum and Maksuda Begum, the three widows of Jinjira union in Keranigonj upazila of Dhaka district, has come to an end thanks to allowances provided by the government to the widowed women.

The dreams of the three ultra-poor women shattered following the death of their husbands in several years back, but things started to change with receiving the allowances.

They are now dreaming of rebuilding live, keeping behind their horrific past.

"I have started dreaming of good living since the daughter of Sheikh Mujib and Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, gave us (widow) allowance. Now I can buy food for my grandchildren," a sexagenarian widow from Kashaivita village, Baby Begum, said in her local accent.

The widow allowance is the only source of Baby Begum's survival as it helps meeting her treatment cost and paying for food for her grandchildren.

The ordeal of Baby Begum begun following death of her husband Shoeb Ali after she gave birth of her only son, who is now working at a motor garage.

She used to beg for her survival besides occasionally working as house-maid in the village. Her economic condition forced her to keep her only son away from school.

The 67-years old Baby Begum has been suffering from many health-related complications since her husband's death, which forced her to begging door to door.

Seeing Baby Bagum's condition, the local government authority gave her a Widow Allowance Card that immensely changes her life. Like Baby Begum, Rina Begum and Maksuda Begum of the same village had to struggle for living before getting widow allowances.

Now, the allowances have brought tremendous changes to the lives of these poor and distressed old women. The struggle of Rina Begum (54) begun after death of her husband a few years back when her only daughter was 10 years old.

She took shelter at her rickshaw puller brother's house along with her daughter when she worked as maid in different households in the locality for living.

Meantime, she arranged marriage of her daughter. But, bad fortune always haunted her as suddenly the left side of her body paralyzed following a severe brain stroke which forced her begging to bear the treatment cost and other expenses.

The ordeal of her life came to an end when Alo Begum, a local female union parishad member, arranged a widow allowance card for her.

"Initially, I got Taka 300 as widow allowances per month, now the amount has been raised at Taka 500," said the apparently happy Rina Begum while talking to this reporter at his house recently.

Now, I can bear my medical expenses and also buy foods with the money which I used to withdraw after every three months, she said adding that these allowances had immensely helped her to live with honour in her family.

Expressing her gratitude to the present government for introducing the programme for the distressed humanity in society, she requested the government to raise the amount at Taka 1000 from the existing Taka 500 considering the present market value of essentials.

The almost same things happened in the life of Maksuda Begum (72), who lost her husband Shamsuddin Miah 30 years back. Maksuda, an Asthma patient, had to lead her life by begging following her husband's death.

Now, a widow allowance card brought changes to her life. "I got a widow allowance card by the government...Now I can buy medicine and food from the money that I withdraw after every three months," said Maksuda. She requested the government to facilitate the process for monthly withdrawing the money.

Deputy Director of the Department of Social Service Farid Ahmed Molla said the previous Awami League government had introduced the programme in 1998-1999 fiscal year aimed at ensuring socio-economic development of the poor widow community and their social security so that they can live in society with honour and dignity. Initially, more than Taka 4,03,11000 crore was provided to 2,01,555 lakh widows when each woman got Taka 100. Now, the amount and the number of beneficiaries have been increasing gradually.

At present Taka 690 crore has been providing to the beneficiaries and each beneficiary is getting Taka 500 monthly.

He said widows those who are physically challenged, landless, have no child and are considered as distressed women are nominated for the widow allowances.

The list of the beneficiaries has to be made following recommendation of upazila chairman. After getting nomination, the beneficiary has to open a bank account by deposition Taka only 10 for withdrawing the amount, Molla said.

Describing the widow allowance as an epoch-making programme of the government, Jinjira Union Parishad member of Keraniganj upzila Asia Khatun said it has brought tremendous changes to the livelihood of the distressed and widow women across the country.

It has increased living standard of the poor widows. She called upon the affluent persons of the society to make the programme a great success for the welfare of the nation.

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)