My friend Andrew Morris, originally from Wales now living in Dhaka — a teacher, writer with a keen eye and a fast pen, and a musician with a mean mouth on the soprano sax — has launched a campaign to raise funds for a new shelter for survivors of trafficking, rape, domestic slavery, and exploitation. The shelter will include dormitories, school and training facilities, garden and play area, and an auditorium and multi-purpose hall.
I would like you to visit the campaign's website and donate what you can. There's a PayPal link, but you don't have to sign up with PayPal. You can use a credit card. The campaign's made a great start, and while the target is ambitious, I'm confident they will carry it through.
When Andrew introduced me to the campaign, I'd already been reading his articles describing his visits to the present shelter. I asked if I could come along one day.
On the first Friday in May, a day when the heat passed the 100 degree mark, four of us set out from the Daily Star office towards Agargaon just a couple of miles to the north. Three of us — Hana Shams Ahmed on one side, Andrew on the other, me in the middle — squeezed in the back of a green natural gas driven three-wheeler. The fourth, Zahedul Khan, rode his own motorcycle. He followed us at first, then we lost him in Dhaka's traffic snarls. Hana is an editor at Star Weekend Magazine, Zahed works there as a photographer, and Andrew is a regular contributor.
Our destination was the shelter of the Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association (BNWLA). Hana and Zahed came along to prepare an article about kids at the shelter. Star Weekend Magazine has done a terrific job hammering away at the slavery-like conditions faced by domestic workers in Bangladesh.
It was the story of one abused child worker that brought me together with this crew. Last fall when I first arrived here, the magazine carried a story about two children found lying on the ground next door to an apartment building in Dhanmondi. Moni, fifteen years old, was dead. Ten-year old Madhabi survived, her bones broken. They had been servants in the building next door. When Madhabi was in the hospital, her employer managed to grab her back. The child was persuaded that she had 'fallen' from the sixth floor roof. Over a four-foot high railing, mind you. The BNWLA rescued her and she recovered in their shelter before returning to her family. The murder case about her co-worker is still pending. Hana told us that not a single employer has ever been convicted of the murder of a domestic worker. Nearly every month there is news of at least one such murder.