Liza’s days start in a rush everyday to get prepared and start for her work. 12-year-old Liza knows how Important it is to work. To sustain her family, to ensure food for herself. Third child of Tofajjol and Nurjahan, Liza works 2-3 hours at a house nearby as a house help. She sets the house to perfection everyday through her nonstop service. Liza says,
‘I don’t take any break in-between my work. I clean the house, wash utensils and cloths, make bread and also cut the vegetable for my employer to cook. I try to work very fast and perfectly, but I make mistakes. My employer scolds me every time for these mistakes. She even calls me names. I feel very bad. But I have no options’.
Why doesn’t she have options, when asked she continued saying,
‘They pay me 3,000 taka. This is a very good amount for my family. I already had to discontinue one of the houses during the current lockdown and couldn’t get any new one. I cannot afford losing this job’.
Do you get time or scope to study now? – Liza replied saying that,
‘I get spare time but don’t study much. I used to study really well when I was a student of Educo’s ODHIKAR Pathshala. I loved going to school. It got closed last year after the lockdown and I stopped studying. Though I got enrolled in another school but never attend any classes. Schools are closed for more than a year now. I work as a house help now’.
Along with Liza, her two sisters and mother also work as house help. But her father can’t as he is having severe health issues. He used to be a rickshaw puller. Liza’s younger brother is too young to work. Hence, all the responsibilities are on the shoulders of the ladies of their house.
Aren’t you too young to work this long continuously? Don’t you get tired? – when asked she replied,
‘I do get tired but what other options could be there? Even during the month of Ramadan, I try to fast and work at the same time. I have to do all the same chores I used to do. I take rest after getting back home and again start helping my mother in our household chores.’
How do you help your mother? When asked Liza responded,
‘I do almost everything. Often when my mother is late from work, I also cook for my family. I am a good cook. I can cook vegetable and fish in minutes’.
Doesn’t the fish get overcooked or ruined any time? Liza confidently replied,
‘why would it? I can cook fish perfectly, everytime’.
Liza’s parents live at Dhaka for decades now. They migrated from Bhola to Dhaka almost 21 years back to have a better fortune. Liza’s rickshaw puller father was able to manage his family pretty well until he got sick 2-3 years back. Their situation got worse after government declared nationwide lockdown in 2020 due to COVID-19 spread.
Last year’s lockdown was really tough for Liza’s family. After struggling for few months, they migrated to Bhola. They had some savings in a local cooperative at her village. Liza’s parents took that savings out and managed their living for few months with that as they exhausted all their savings at Dhaka. All of them lost their ongoing jobs without any notice. Liza further explained the situation,
‘We didn’t want to migrate to Bhola but that was the only option left for us. I heard that many organizations supported slum dwellers, but we only got 2,000 from Educo last year for buying food during the lockdown, nothing else. My friends also suffered a lot in the lockdown last year’.
Has the situation changed much this year? Liza answers,
‘Yes, we didn’t have to discontinue our jobs this time. Though one of my employers discontinued me from work but the other didn’t. My mother also joined at a new house as a helping hand just last month. I don’t think we’ll have to migrate this year as well’.
Liza was only talking about the hardship she and her family was and is facing during past few years. When she was asked how these hardships can vanish from her life and what should she be doing to achieve that dream, she described,
‘I think if corona goes away, I’ll be able to be on track. I wanted to be a doctor and used to study a lot. But I don’t study that much anymore. I studied upto class 04 at Educo’s ODHIKAR Pathshala, which got shifted away from here. I got admitted in another school but never went there as right at the beginning of my classes, the lockdown was declared’.
Liza further explained,
‘Life was beautiful before corona. But it’s very hectic now. I miss my school and my free state. I could go out anytime I want with my friend but not anymore. I meet my friends almost every day as they live nearby but I don’t get to see my teachers anymore. I miss talking to my teachers. They used to share stories with us. Those stories were fascinating’.
COVID-19 situation and the second time ongoing lockdown has greatly impacted Liza. Her biggest fear is to lose her parents due to COVID-19. She descried the greatest concern for her nowadays by revealing,
‘who will take care of us if anything happens to our parents? who will earn for us? How will we sustain’?
Finally, Liza concluded saying that to overcome such fears she and working children of her age need to study and work. She says,
‘If we could continue work and studies simultaneously it would have been better. Though I wanted to be a doctor, my dream has shattered now. I only want to stay happy in future and being a doctor can give me happiness. After being a doctor, I want to serve my parents and others in need. I don’t like to work as a house help, I only love to study. I wish I could do another job except for this!’.