Orphantrust » The Untouchable Colony

The Untouchable Colony

Posted by: on Jun 27, 2018 | No Comments

After check in we visit a local colony of Doom and Sweeper families. We now understand that in the caste system Dooms are used to clear dead carcasses and perished deceased bodies or to dig up graves for purposes of enquiries that follow burials. The sweepers are toilet cleaners.

The colony is a tiny slum area made up of a cluster of tin houses with mud walls all located in very close proximity to one another. It is based in the town of Sirajganj.

On entering we meet a women outside the communal temple. She is very praising of god and proudly points towards the temple. We continue down the alleyway and past a couple of tin houses to an opening, this tiny court yard surrounded by four building appears to be a community hub area. There is a pump well located outside a building which is essentially one room. We are told this is the school.

A young lady appears, she is introduced as a former student, her name is Jinook, now aged 22 she has completed her studies in Political Science BA Hons and is looking for work in a related field. She is of the Sweeper community, an untouchable. As we stand there, more and more people appear, the children gather. At first they are a little shy. Our host appears with a camera and we all gather for photographs. After this we are invited into the school.

We meet Chadni who is 16, she has just finished her studies at the school and requires sponsorship to continue with her education. I later discover what a bright and articulate young lady Chadni is, when she succinctly, articulately and politely makes a case for funding the girls education at a meeting with community head, the men of the village and our host from Shudha who provides some of the sponsorship.

As a welcome the schools teachers also from the community and the children put on a meet and greet session for us. They sing us a song to welcome us, then we all set off for a wonder around Colony. People empty their houses to welcome and join us on the tour. Each house is made up of two rooms and a kitchen. The kitchen is located in a separate building away from the house, the toilets and showers are communal. We hear that a Swedish charity have recently committed to building a separate showers for the girls. After the tour we are presented with flowers and asked to join a village meeting. It is held in one of the houses.

The house is clean and well presented, and although a single room accommodates an entire family the feeling of love and warmth from this community stretchers through the four walls of this home. The villagers gather around the house, looking in through the window as the meeting commences.

At the meeting we hear that the community have been given 50,000tk by the government to help a project which aims to refurbish the school. The tin building has become dilapidated and is dangerous for the children (see picture).

Shudha have pledged 25000tk for the project. Due to the lack of funding the project will take place in phases. The rear wall of the school will be rebuilt to begin with, and once more money is available another phase will take place. Bristi one of our hosts explains that the school are desperately in need of books for their library (see pictures) which is currently a single cabinet consisting of a single self of books. She says that the teacher hope that one day they can have a separate room with a reading area as the library.

It occurs to me that if rebuilding a single wall of school costs £750 the cost to supply the school with some books, more sufficient shelving units or perhaps even a separate room as a library and reading area cannot be very much. This project would continue to serve a community who with education are already beginning to work their way out of poverty.

At the meeting we learn that sponsoring Chadni and the other girls who have reached 16 in the village into higher education would cost only £12 per student per month. It is acknowledged that the advancement of girls in this community will greatly contribute to the advancement of future generations.

I remember the conversation with Bristi on the night of our arrival. She described that commonly children and particularly girls from this community are at risk and can quickly become destitute following the marital break up of parents or a bereavement. They can be drawn into brothel communities like Daulatdia (see link, this a a must watch)!!!

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=JYPyI1agpiw&feature=youtu.be

Now that I have met these loving people who are so happy, generous and attentive I find this vulnerability hard to swallow. I can see that this is a strong community who work together. I therefore find it all more difficult to comprehend.

By Sofena Choudhury

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