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Namita Chakma (32), Khagrachari

The poverty in this place is unimaginable. Five years ago, when I got married to a villager I had many dreams for myself. I wanted to complete my education. But like any other girl in our community I was forced to stop my university after my marriage. I cannot explain to anyone what it feels like to be a failure. As a woman, I was told that I was not capable of realising any of my ridiculous dreams. Like any other man of this community, my husband confronted me and said they I should keep busy with my new life and family. I sacrificed my dreams and dignity as a woman. That heartache made me suffer silently all those years. In 2015 when I got the chance to receive training as a farmer I could hardly imagine what was ahead. Now I am the farmer facilitator of four Farmer Field Schools. During those sixty days of training every day, I wanted to bring a miracle into my life: the woman who was once defeated by society was screaming inside me to move continue. I was a housewife and with my husband’s limited income life was difficult. I wanted to have my own earnings and dignity. I wanted to change this village and the role of women. After receiving training, I continued to implement my skills in my vegetable garden in order to establish a grocery shop. The people around me got inspiration from me.  I never realised I could be able to set an example in my village. People stop me on the road to hear my suggestions and I am an inspiration for other women. After the training, I started producing different kinds of vegetables and vegetable leaves. Last year I sold 12000 taka of vegetables after having a sufficient amount for my house. I bought a rice-husking machine, which brings me 5000 taka income every month. Along with me, my husband is running our established shop. Before no one imagined a woman could be able to do so many things together. I saw how my mother-in-law who once did not support me to finish my education was praising my hard work. I have proven to everyone what a woman is capable of. Now I am earning 18000 taka every month, which is a dream for any woman of the Hill Tracks. I have seen how amazingly women are fulfilling the needs of their family’s daily bazaar. They can sell extra vegetables, which is a source of income for many families now. My income has changed the face of my family too. There was no electricity and my only son could not study during the evening. Recently I bought a solar system and water motor for the house. We are also saving for our son’s education. My dream is to educate him, to give him the life I always dreamed to have. The journey was not easy. Still we have a long way to go. The main crisis of this place is the water crisis. People of this place are mostly farmers and labourers. If they get some capital or machineries to change their livelihood this could bring change to this poor village. Mostly women are willing, but we also have to have great determination and will power; women have to take care of the family too. My day starts at sunrise and ends at night. Sometimes I feel very tired and then I see what I have achieved just within a year, the things that I could not achieve in my whole life. Now I have a voice in my house, in my village. When I walk through the hilly tracks villagers ask me to come to their houses. As a farmer facilitator, I feel proud to see the development of our farmers, especially the women. The dream I once had only for myself I am now living and accomplishing with every woman of my village.