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Khodeja Begum (37), Barishal

I lost my father when I was a child. To fight poverty my four siblings and I continued to help our mother. I could never ask my mother to make me a dress or cook the food that tempted me. Hunger was an everyday part of our life. My mother arranged my marriage when I was fifteen with a day laborer. I continued to struggle for food in my new house since the wedding. I lost count of how many days I spent in starvation with my two little daughters. If my husband could manage one meal, he was not sure how he could find next day’s food. Besides fighting against life, we had to fight against natural calamity. During every monsoon my hut went under water. I used to stay awake the whole night with my young daughters. During one flood time, when I lost my house, I had to sell my only nose pin that was my mother’s last memory, which she gifted to me for my wedding. With the money, I bought plastic to give shade over the heads of my young daughters. I will never forget that day. Life took away every hope from me that stormy night. I could not provide a new cloth to any of my daughters during any festival. During this hard time, my husband had an accident and I realized I had to do something alone to survive. I kept looking for a chance, which could change our destiny. One day that chance arrived in the form of a road construction work in the village. I never had to look back ever again. Till now I was part of seven to eight construction projects and with every accomplishment, my life was changing from one stage to another. Within three years, I made myself an example for women in my village. I made a house with seventy thousand taka that I had earned. Now I have seven cows, thirty five ducks, five goats and ten hens. I bought a piece of land that I never thought was possible for me even in my wildest dreams. I married off my elder daughter and gifted her golden bangles. I made gold earrings for myself. My greatest achievement now is that my younger daughter is able to go to university. I never went to school, but when I see my daughter continue her education, I feel so content and joyful. I have received several training classes. The best one is about natural disasters. There was a time when we lost everything because of our unpreparedness. Now we understand the signals and know what to do at such times. I was a kind of woman who did not know how to speak but now people come to me for my advice. For my work achievement I received an award last year. There was a time when I tried to commit suicide in hunger and now I dream about establishing a cow farm and to do more cultivation in the field. My hard work have changed my life entirely.