IMPACT JOURNALISM DAY 2015: FOOD SUSTAINABILITY

Beating poverty by saving fistfuls of rice

This story was first published on June 20, 2015

MS ARJINA Khatun was married off when she was only 13 years old.

After just 13 months of marriage, her husband divorced her because her family was unable to pay the dowry.

She did not let that wreck her life. Not only did she turn it around, she also transformed the lives of many women in Taraganj, a sub-district of Rangpur in Bangladesh.

Ms Khatun, now 47, said she became a household helper after her divorce. She saved until she could buy two goats and nine chickens.

A dream grew in her heart.

In 2002, she formed an association of 40 women, called the Panchayetpara Working Women's Group.

Every day, they saved 40 fistfuls of rice. At the end of each week, they held a lottery and handed over the rice to one of the members, who would buy ducks and chickens with the money earned.

After 40 weeks, their village and their households were bustling with ducks and chickens.

The initiative brought in cash for the women and their families.

Next, Ms Khatun began saving two Bangladeshi taka (S$0.03) a day.

Every week, the women would save 560 taka. They would hold a lottery, and a goat would be purchased for the winner of the week. Gradually, their herd grew.

After reading about Ms Khatun's efforts, two non­ governmental organisations came forward to help.

She also expanded her women's group to 170 members. They would deposit 20 taka a week and divide up the money every three years.

They now have 500,000 taka in their savings fund.

Ms Khatun is continuing her fight against child marriages, dowries, unjust divorces and the oppression of women. So far, she has prevented 21 child marriages.

She said: "It is women who first have to come forward to help women in distress."

RAHIDUL MIAH/PROTHOM ALO (BANGLADESH)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 15, 2016, with the headline 'Beating poverty by saving fistfuls of rice'. Print Edition | Subscribe