Safe accommodation for single working women still a far cry
Women's participation in outdoor jobs in the country is increasing in a faster pace than expected but having safe and secure living places for such single women in the capital still remains a distant dream.
Private hostels for single working women in the city provide the "worst services" taking extremely high charges while the number of government hostels is too inadequate to solve their problem, they said.
Talking to a good number of working women in the city, the agency correspondent found such a scenario.
They said these days more and more women are joining outside jobs with the government making increased focus on their empowerment and economic emancipation so that they can contribute to the national economy in a greater way.
However, the government is planning to construct one dormitory for working women in each district gradually depending on the availability of khas land, a government official told the agency sharing the recent DC conferences' outcome.
According to Bangladesh Quarterly Labour Force Survey 2015-16 of Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, some 44, 30,000 women are working in urban areas, including the capital city.
"The quality of food in our hostel is so bad that we need to buy one from outside or cook it for every meal," said Rafia Khan Liza, a retail banking officer at a private bank who along with her sister has been living in a private hostel for 10 years.
She said some 95 per cent girls of this hostel are bound to cook for themselves. "We don't even have safe drinking water in the hostel. We have to pay extra Tk 300 to the hostel staff for drinking water or buy mineral water," Liza said venting her anger over poor facilities they enjoy in the hostel.
She said the living condition in the hostel is also very "unhealthy" and the hostel owner does not pay heed to their complaints.
Like Liza hundreds of working women in the city are struggling to find a safe and secure shelter for them to continue working for the country for their family and contribute to society.
"Sometimes, things turn difficult when you're ready to pay money for either a shared-flat or you want to live alone but the landlord will not rent the house saying you're a girl," said Nasrin Jahan, an employee at a national daily newspaper, now living with a family in a sublet arrangement.
"This doesn't end here. If any guest comes to the family with whom I (Nasrin) used to share the house, within a moment I had to go elsewhere or any relatives' house. I was even not allowed to use the common space," Nasrin told UNB adding that getting sublet or a shared-flat is highly expensive.
Lamiaz Islam, working at a private firm in Dhaka said, "Among many odd issues, insecurity is the number one problem while living in a shared-flat as we don't know the people with whom we are living even having no idea whether it is safe or not to live with unknown people."
Lamiaz said the situation turns worse for them during the coaching season, especially during university admission time. "House owners like taking the advantage of that ...they want to rent out their houses at a higher rate to the students coming for admission test from various districts.
Without paying any heed to rules and regulations for such hostels and sublet system, the homeowners are running business caring little about compassion and humanity, Lamiaz alleged.
Farzana Rashid, a female employee having a long experience of living in a public hostel, told UNB though facilities, in terms of safety and expenses, of the public hostels are relatively better, there are some hassles, too.
"Sometimes many students showing fake job papers manage the seat in the hostel while actual working women do not get a place to live," she said adding that the hostel authorities need to monitor things in a stricter way as there are lapses.
Talking to UNB, State Minister for Women and child Affairs Meher Afroze Chumki said they will address the accommodation crisis for working women and will also address safety issues, too.
"We're very serious on the issue. If necessary, we'll rent houses to address the issue. Necessary directives have been given in this regard," she said.
The State Minister said the government will take steps against those who are not following rules in running hostel business.
She also encouraged women to rent houses together in a small group to run hostels for working women following rules and regulations.
Additional Director of Department of Women Affairs Shahnowas Dilruba Khan said they have taken necessary steps to control the fake students' admission.
"There might be some cases (fake admission) in the past but now there's no chance for anybody to avail of fake admission path as we're verifying the border's job by visiting their workplaces," she said.
She said there are three government hostels for working women in Dhaka-Nilkhet, Mirpur and Khilgaon-with only 893 seats.
Construction works of vertical extension of two hostels in Mirpur and Khilgaon are underway, said Dilruba.
She also said there is a plan to establish another 10-storey building on an empty space of Nilkhet Kormojibi Mohila Hostel.
Executive Director at Bangladesh Women Lawyers Association Salma Ali said a safe and secure living place for working women is a matter of concern but both the government and non-government authorities are least bothered about it.
Terming the living place and condition of working women 'risky' Salma Ali, also a women rights activist, said sometimes working women who come to the capital from the grassroots level with relatively less education become the victim of "human trafficking" and sometimes get trapped in the hands pimps as they do not get safe place to live in.
She said though the government is encouraging women to get empowered, necessary measures from the government side are not taken yet for ensuring good services and safe environment for the working women.
Aborigine girls like Garo ones who come to Dhaka to work face a lot of hurdles to find a safe place for them, she added.
Lovely Yasmin Jeba, a gender specialist, said women from different parts of the country come to Dhaka to work here but lack of proper living place makes them upset.
She urged the government to implement a policy for private hostels to address this problem. —UNB