By Bijoyeta Das
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
A building boom in Bangladesh is spawning unregulated stone quarries that attract girls and women to some of the harshest, worst-paid work. Here's a look at a site along the Piyain River.
The women take their children to the quarry, including babies, where they are exposed to dust and injuries.
She knows men get paid more for the same work, but says that "if we complain the trader says 'you can leave the job, there is no dearth of workers.'"
No sick leave, overtime, contracts, compensation, bonuses exist-- and no entertainment. The only incentive is survival.
After work, men loiter around tea stalls, gossiping, sipping tea and smoking bidi, hand rolled cigarettes.
Women enjoy themselves during festivals, says Priti Rani Das. "We make rice cakes and coconut balls."
The assault on the river is relentless and haphazard. The mosaic of rocks and lush hills that draw tourists is shrinking. The river is dying slowly as Jaflong continues to lure migrants from far-flung villages.
"Two years ago I earned at least $6 a day, now I earn $2," said Rajia Begum, 48.
She works seven days a week, 10 hours a day.
At noon, Begum stops for a 30-minute lunch break. She squashes a hot green chili and meshes it with boiled rice, mustard oil, salt and eggplant puree.
"Rest is a luxury," she said, raising her voice to be heard above the cacophonous racket.
She packs her plastic tiffin box and lies on the ground. A few minutes later, she gingerly picks her wicker basket and hammer and walks away, merging with the sweaty, joyless crowd of stone crushers.
Would you like to Comment but not sure how? Visit our help page at http://www.womensenews.org/help-making-comments-womens-enews-stories.
Would you like to Send Along a Link of This Story?
Bijoyeta Das is a multimedia journalist currently covering South Asia. Her work is available at www.bijoyetadas.com.
By Naomi Abraham
By Amy Lieberman
By Amy Lieberman