Jesmin

JESMIN FROM BAGERHAT: THE ONE WHO HAS FOUND SELF-RESPECTWITH HER IDENTITY AS A CHANGE MAKER

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Jesmin sells vegetables at different alleys and lanes in Bagerhat town. She usually sells about 4 to 6 maund (1 maund is roughly 37-38 kgs) vegetables daily on her van. It is hard to found anyone in Bagerhat town who doesn't know Jesmin; and that is for two reasons - her exceptional profession and her activities towards making people conscious against domestic violence and drug addiction. Financial hardship was permanent in her family as her father was addicted to drugs. After passing class 8, her father prohibited her from studying anymore. When Jesmin was only 14 years old she was forced to marry with an aged man. Jesmin's father arranged the marriage taking money from Jesmin's husband but on the third month, they had a break up. Afterwards, her family planned to get her married again and started beating her up. This time, in fear of going for another marriage, Jesmin _ed to Dhaka. She started working at houses only in exchange of some food. A few years later, she met someone and got married and returned to Bagerhat with her husband. But after a few days the husband ran away and had a road accident. At that time, her family and villagers accused the child she had conceived as an illicit one. In such unbearable condition, she gave birth to a boy in 2004. Her savings were _nished in the meantime. After the birth of the baby, she had to starve for 4 or 5 days. Her father and mother did not help her at that time with a bit of food. She begged to her neighbours for food and on the 12th day after giving birth to her son, she came down in search of work even in her weakness. During this time she had to struggle a lot to arrange a little to eat for herself and her son. At that time she used to provide pitcher of water in restaurants for 2 taka. She worked in houses in exchange of food. Sometimes she used to pick vegetables from fields, canals around and sell those house to house. In this way, when little money was saved, she started buying vegetables cheaply from the village haat and selling those to houses. At one time she bought a van, and from then her current profession, selling vegetables by a van, got a start. In course of selling vegetables at different places, at one time she met Ms. Rizia from a local NGO called Rupantar. She suggested her (Jesmin) to work against domestic violence as well as to become a Change Maker. Jesmin felt good thinking of while nobody ever respected her, neither loved her, spoke ill of her, Ms. Rizia showed her a better way and provided a lot of books including one like “Story of Ratna and Sumon”. While reading those books she recalled her own life, she thought that opportunities have been created to help these women who suffered like her. People used to say awful things about her, have teased her and even have beaten her after she started selling vegetables on a van. Her father and brothers have also beaten her but she never gave up. And after being a Change Maker she got an identity. Today, she is being addressed as 'Change Maker Jesmin' before the name like vegetable trader Jesmin. So many famous and prominent people are there working as a Change Maker just like her and still when someone comes from outside she is the first person to be called. Jesmin realizes that her life's experiences of tortures faced by her has actually turned her into a skilled Change Maker. Now she never hesitates while speaking about her life, which was once full of violence and grief. Jesmin thinks that the main reasons behind domestic violence are lack of education among women, lack of financial liberty and drug addiction among men. That is why, when she visits people to sell her vegetables she tries to promote women's education and independence.