Abandoned by her husband eight years ago, 33 year old Mosammat Banesa wasn’t prepared for the hardships that she and her three young daughters would face. Her youngest, Shilpi, was only two months old when her husband left them and the infant’s presence made it hard for Banesa to get a job as a domestic worker; nobody wanted a maid with a child. They survived on the charity of others, but only just barely. There were days when the family lived on nothing but ground rice husk, forcefully gulped down with water.
“Work and income were inconsistent, and I often had to put my young children to sleep with empty stomachs. It’s the hardest thing for a mother to bear and I felt utterly helpless”, Banesa remembers.
With no income to provide for them, her two eldest daughters, Mariam and Shompa, had no choice but to find work, even though they were very young, and as a mother, Banesa worried and prayed they would be safe fending for themselves.
“When my eldest turned 15, I had to marry her off because I had no other choice. I couldn’t feed her, and to be a young girl without the protection of a father is a great curse in our society.”
Even despite the hardship Banesa found within herself the generosity to care for others. Three years ago, she found a 2 year old boy alone and crying on the side of a street. She took him home and after many days of searching for his family with no luck, she adopted him as her own.
“I knew I was not in much of a state to raise him, but I couldn’t just abandon him either. I felt he was the son I never had.”
Fortunately for Banesa and her family, their lives changed significantly when she found work under WFP’s Enhancing Resilience (ER) programme and began work at the cluster homestead construction scheme at Phulchari. During the rainy season when work is impossible, Benesa goes to the training centre where she receives invaluable guidance on issues such as disaster management, life skills and income generating techniques, such as homestead gardening, the rearing and farming of fish, and raising poultry and domestic animals. She looks forward to the day when she will have enough savings that she might be able to start her own small side business to generate extra income once the ER work has come to an end.
Ten-year old Shompa and 8 year old Shilpi are now both in school. Her son Reza is still too young for school, so he comes with her to work. Since more than 70% of the participants in ER are women, facilities have been set up for the young children whose mothers work there, providing a space for them to play and sleep and for women to nurse them when needed.
“Every night I thank my fortune when I send my children to bed after a full dinner. For many years we lived as vagabonds anywhere we could find shelter. Now, because of WFP I have work and income, I have been able to build a house of our own and I am now my own master. There is simply no greater feeling!” says a proud Banesa.