S Dilip Roy: In Bangladesh, people affected with dwarfism are often marginalised and victims of mockery. The disability is considered a limitation for those affected by it and as a burden for their families. But this is not one of those stories.
“They are gifts from Allah,” said Sahera Khatun, mother of four physically challenged children suffering from dwarfism in Lalmonirhat.
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The seven member family lives in the remote village of Niz Gaddimari of Hatibandha upazila in Lalmonirhat. “I am landless, and our house is on a government khas land,” said father Soleman Miah, with a heavy heart. “We live in poverty. Due to the stunted growth of my children, they miss out on alot of opportunities. But that does not stop them.”
The youngest Kabel Uddin,18, is a student of class nine at Gaddimari High School while Rasheda Khatun, 20, is a HSC candidate studying at Barakhata Degree College.
“Our college is about 4 km distance away from our home, since we cannot walk all the way it has become difficult to attend classes every day,” said Rasheda. “My parents cannot afford to pay for the daily transportation. But I will still pursue my studies,” she says with the hopes of being the support that her family needs.
Kabel is occasionally hired by the local hawkers to sing and attract customers and is paid Tk 120-150 per day. “I feel ashamed to do this,” Kabel said, “but I have to help my parents to support my education expenses. Hopefully this phase of my life will not last.”
Meanwhile, the eldest sister Farida Khatun, 29, now runs a small business in the local market, Taler bazaar. She gave up her studies in class ten to help provide for her family.
“I earn up to Tk 100 selling different commodities especially fishing net every day,” she said adding she never seeks help from anybody. “I want to develop my business but I still need more capital,” she said adding her little income is also used for her younger’s studies.
Her younger brother Shah Ala, 26, earns Tk 120-150 per day from catching fishes at local water bodies in the village, and his earning supports the family. “We feel sorry over our disability, but we are happy as we live together,” he added.
“Despite their disability, they are honest, hardworking and dedicated to every job they do in the village,” said Nazim Uddin, their neighbour.