By AKM Kamal Uddin Chowdhury
DHAKA, Dec ,6 2018 (BSS)–“I had to face a hard time . . . managing meal once a day for my two children was difficult for me but I have been able to overcome the poverty with the help of a government’s income generation project,” said Rashida lost her husband at the age of eighteen.
Rashida, now a middle-aged woman, took Taka 7,200 as loan under Strengthening Women’s Ability for Productive New Opportunities (SWAPNO) project and purchased a tailoring machine. She is now making bags and sales the product in different markets.
“After the death of my husband, I became hopeless as there was no way to manage food for my children. I started doing work as a house servant to manage food and other basic needs,” she said while sharing bitter experience of her life with BSS.
Rashida said she tried to do any type of works to survive. “Later on, I got a job at a KG school as an ayah (servant) at a salary of Taka 1,000 per month,” she added.
But that was not enough to maintain her family as her son was studying in class-IX. She could not bear his educational expenses. She managed a job for his son at a grocery where his salary was Taka 1,500.
But that was not enough to maintain her family. Under such a situation, she came to know about a government’s project SWAPNO which will recruit some employees. She went to the Union Parishad and stood in the line.
“God blessed me; I got the job through a lottery. I also got a lottery of Taka 7,200. I purchased a tailoring machine,” said Rashida, an inhabitant of village Patkelghata, in Swarulia Union of Tala Upazila under Satkhira District.
“I dreamed to be a small trader . . . SWAPNO has helped me fulfill my dream. I’m happy,” she said.
Like Rashida, Malati, Shaheda Parvin, many other women in Satkhira and Kurigram districts changed their life through joining the SWAPNO.
Talking to BSS, training specialist of SWAPNO Kajal Chatterjee said SWAPNO is a social security project of the government that is helping as many as 8,928 poor women in the rural areas of Satkhira and Kurigram districts to fulfill their dreams and potentials.
The Local Government Division is implementing the five-year project from April 2015 with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Sustainable Development Goals Fund (SDGF) and BSRM.
Chatterjee said, a total of 4,464 widows, divorcees, and wives of disabled persons have found better life than before after completing the first phase of the project.
After successfully completion of the first phase of the project, Chaterjee said, the project has already selected another 4,464 extreme poor women of the districts for the second phase and they are working in maintenance of the union level government property.
He informed that SWAPNO has also launched e-payment system in the 112 unions of the districts.
According to a survey of the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS), women were employed from August 2015 to February 2017 for 18 months in the first phase. Each beneficiary received a total of Taka 66,450 in cash along with the amount of Taka 22,150 as a ‘graduation bonus’, which was built up from the mandatory savings scheme of the project.
The project helped each woman to earn Taka 40,000 which has led to a drastic fall of their poverty from moderate and extreme level. They are now more secured in taking daily food and incur non-food expenditure, particularly for education of children.
Livestock is now the main assets of the beneficiaries. Apart from increasing their income the composition of their assets has also changed as livestock constitutes about 43 percent of their total assets which was only 13 percent before their joining with SWAPNO.