At our Share the Journey Conference on Saturday 12th May at St Edward the Confessor church Chandler’s Ford SO53 2DU we will be able to hear about the work of one of our CAFOD partners based in Bangladesh called OKUP . Ovibashi Karmi Unnayan Program (OKUP) is a community-based migrants organisation in Bangladesh which has been campaigning for gender justice, human rights, and non-discrimination towards returning migrant workers since 2004. OKUP has strong networks with communities at high risk of migration in Bangladesh and serves as a platform for migrants to have their voices heard at both national and international levels.
Three members of OKUP Sahkirul Islam, Omar Faruque and Sahmsun Nahar are visiting England in May and they have very kindly agreed to come to our conference on 12th May to tell us about their work and to meet CAFOD supporters. You can book for the conference on eventbrite or email firstname.lastname@example.org..uk
Shakirul Islam is the Chairman of OKUP. Being a son of a migrant worker and the student of Social Science, Shakirul started working to defend the rights and welfare of migrant workers and their families in 2004. He is a social researcher and passionate about raising migrants’ voice within migration discourses from grassroots to international level.
Omar Faruque Chowdhury is the founding Executive Director of OKUP. As a migrant worker he has firsthand experiences of abuse and exploitations in the migration cycle and upon return to Bangladesh he, along with a group of returnee migrants, established OKUP.
Pakhi is a returnee woman migrant worker. She was a domestic worker in Kuwait and then Malaysia. Being a victim of abuse and exploitation, Pakhi has participated in various OKUP activities. She is an elected Member of the OKUP Executive Committee since 2013.
This is a case study showing the work of the OKUP
I along with my husband and two daughters lived in a remote village in Bangladesh. My husband was a rickshaw (a three-wheeler) puller. He used to earn around 8,000 BDT (£73) in a month. We could manage with that. Suddenly, my husband became sick. I took a loan from my parents for his treatment. After that he was not able to work regularly, and we fell further into debt trying to feed our family. Some months later my husband proposed that I go abroad to work. I had never thought of doing that. My husband assured me he would care for our daughter and convinced me that it would lead to a better life for our daughter if I earnt money abroad. I asked my family for help, so I would not need to travel but they refused to help. Finally, I agreed to go in order to improve the lives of my family. My husband talked with a local dalal (unauthorised agent engaged in recruitment). He asked for 40,000 BDT (£464) in exchange for a job in Lebanon. My husband mortgaged a piece of land and sold cows to raise the amount.
In May 2015, I travelled to Lebanon as a domestic worker. I did not know anything about Lebanon and I was only told that I could work there as a housemaid. I thought the household work would be simple as I do it every day in my own house and never thought I would face any difficulties. The reality was very different and when I arrived it was terrible. I didn’t know the language, how to use the washing machine, or other household appliances. The family I worked with were not kind to me and they forced me to work late into the night with barely any rest. They would beat me for making little mistakes. Sometime later the man of the house began sexually harassing me and he found a way to get me alone in the house. I tried my best to avoid him and was frightened but nobody was there to save me. He raped me several times and threatened to kill me if told anyone. A short while later I realised I was pregnant, when I told him he became violent.
I didn’t know where to turn and knew there was no way to hide the pregnancy, so I told his wife. She responded with cruelty and became violent towards me and would often beat me. They refused to take me to a doctor to be examined.
Six months passed, and pregnancy was obvious, one day the man of the house had me arrested by making a false accusation against me. I spent time in prison and was then sent to a shelter where I gave birth to a boy. After three months living in the shelter in Lebanon, they sent me back to Bangladesh with my son. When I arrived in Bangladesh, OKUP met me at the airport, checked that I did not need medical attention and then took me to a shelter they run. OKUP have now been looking after me and my son in the shelter for the last 11 months. My husband and family told me never to return to their village, if anyone sees me with a son my family will lose face. I feel guilty myself and have considered suicide a number of times. My heart is broken as I can no longer see my daughter. I am worried about the future of this small boy and I am anxious about my daughter who is growing up without their mother. Was this my fault? How can I get justice and get my life back?