Hazera Begum, the ‘mother’, the saviour
Hazera Begum lost her mother in adolescence and was forced to leave home because of her stepmother. A series of unfortunate events led her to spiral down a path of darkness. However, she, with a bright smile, broke free of all those barriers and became 'mother' of children of the sex workers; striving further to ensure a better future for them.
Hazera Begum, who once worked as a sex worker, is now the loving 'mother' to 46 children who were on the verge of suffering the terrible childhood she faced. These children now have a roof over their head and are studying at the expense of Hazera's 'Shishuder Jonno Amra', an organisation devoted to the children of sex workers.
"My journey with these children started in June 2010 when I first set up Shishuder Jonno Amra with my life savings. My goal was to provide shelter for the children of sex workers and ensure that they do not follow that path. At first, there were 26 children living in a small house in Savar area. Later in 2011, we moved here to Adabor," she told Dhaka Courier.
Her motivation was the experience she had in her own life as Hazera spoke about her childhood traumas.
"I had to live on the street till I was 10 and things were only getting worse. I was sold off to a brothel...I quit the life of a sex-worker in 1990, but I saw that female children living there ended up like their mothers and the boys had to live off drug-trade and extortion. I wanted to change this, I wanted to keep them safe," she said.
Hazera went on saying that she wanted these children born in brothels not to be forced into their mother's profession, or deviate into the dark world of crime.
"In the beginning, many opposed my vision. Just because these children were coming from brothels, many institutes were not ready to enroll them. But I didn't lose hope and eventually, things were sorted," she relayed about the harshness of her journey.
"This establishment is currently run by a seven-member committee. We get funds from many voluntary organisations and NGOs; many individuals especially students are happy to help us. This organisation is totally dependent on their donations," she told Dhaka Courier.
Hazera, with the care of a loving mother, looks after these 46 children and has an elaborate plan for their future.
"We want all girl children here to complete higher studies and for boys, we are focusing on vocational training for better job opportunities," she told.
A number of boys, who grew up in the 'Shishuder Jonno Amra' shelter, are working as electricians, drivers, and other jobs.
Hazera plans to grow the shelter and buy land for a larger dormitory for the children.
"Once they grow up, it becomes a little difficult to accommodate them and I am hoping to build our very own building for these children to stay. I can die in peace after that," Hazera said.
The shelter was first set up with the contributions of a few students of Jahangirnagar University (JU) and all of them are still connected with the shelter.
"Many faculties of JU support our cause too and they have extended their helping hands many times."
Hazera's foundation has seen only progress since establishment and has actually done well for the children of sex workers.
"In the past, it was almost certain that a girl child of a sex worker will be forced to live the same life as her mother. But not one girl who called me 'mother' and grew up here faced this fate and I want to keep it that way," Hazera said with a wide smile on her face.
Talking about her personal thought about life's accomplishments, Hazera Begum described it as fulfilled.
"As a woman, I consider myself successful because I was blessed with these kids and could keep them from deviating to an inhuman life. Despite my sufferings, I saved these children and became their mother. It is my success," she told Dhaka Courier.
Hazera Begum extended her plea to the women of the country by saying, "We see many women choosing to commit suicide whenever society and situation break them. I want to say to all my sisters that nothing can keep you down. You must turn around and reach out to others. You have to remember that ami nari, amio pari (I am a woman and I too can)."
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