My name is Mili* and I am 16 years old. I have three brothers and I’m the only girl. When we were little, my parents separated. My youngest brother was only one year old, and the second youngest brother was two and I was six years old. I also have an elder brother. After my parents divorced, we lived with my father. I was very young then. I used to do all the household chores. When I was 12, and my youngest brother was seven, I tried to meet my mother, that’s why my father sent me to our village. He kept my eldest brother and youngest brother in Dhaka. They used to study in the madrasa there. My father tormented them by not paying their tuition fees. One day my mother called me on the phone. I told her about brothers and that my father did not pay for the madrasa. My father also used to beat me a lot.
Then mother went to Dhaka and took in my brothers to live with her. Me and my other brother stayed with my father for five years. We were never given a set of clothes. I had an aunt who lived abroad and who had no children. She took care of our expenses most of the time. Then once before the Eid festival, my uncle sent money to my father to buy me some dresses. But I was not given any clothes on the day of Eid. I complained to my aunt about this. I was crying. Later, my aunt quarrelled with my father and my father beat me. He tore my clothes whilst beating me. He beat me with a bamboo stick. Then my eldest uncle came and took my father away. I didn’t eat anything for four days. Then I contacted my mother and fled to Dhaka. I left my younger brother to my father.
My mother got remarried and my stepfather can’t tolerate us, especially my elder brother. He beats my brother a lot. Now my brother keeps bad company and stays out most of the time. He drinks alcohol and he doesn’t work regularly. He pulls a rickshaw.
After I came to Dhaka with my mother, I was sent back to the village again for a few months. I was admitted to a madrasa in the village. One of my uncles paid for my studies there, but after six months, he couldn’t afford the expenses anymore. I was only able to learn four paras of the Quran. Then I couldn’t study anymore. I had to come back to Dhaka.
Then a few months later, I started to work. At first, I was working in a shoe factory. I used to paste the shoe joints; I also learned a little about how to operate the machinery. I used to get tk.5000 (USD $46) a month as salary. If there was overtime, I could earn some more money. I used to give all the money to my mother. After working there for a few months, the factory closed, this was during the time of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Then I started work in a bakery. The owner of the bakery was not a good person. He tried to harass me sexually. He tried to convince me to have an immoral and physical relationship with him. That’s why I had to leave the job. My mother told me to quit. Because he was the owner, we wouldn’t have the ability to confront him. No one would believe us if I complained about him. So I quit my job silently. Now I am looking for a job. My mother works as a day labourer. My (step)father rarely pays the house rent. My brother has to provide for the family. My younger brother is studying in the madrasa.
Now, I’m looking for a new job but can’t find anything. I visit many factories daily in search of work. But I haven’t got anywhere.
In the factory my hours were from 8 am to 5 pm. And the lunchtime was one hour. And if the work pressure was higher, I would work until10 pm. I used to get tk.18-20 (17-18 US Cents) an hour for overtime.
When I lived in my grandfather’s house in the village, I used to live a little differently. Everyone knew me better. One of my uncles admitted me to the madrasa. There I wanted to be a Hafez of Quran Sharif (someone who has completely memorized the Quran). But I couldn’t continue that. I only completed four paras (parts) of the Quran. I studied there for only seven months.
I stopped school after class four, this was around the time my parents divorced. After my mother left, I had to take care of the household chores. My younger brother was only one year old. I had to look after him all the time.
I escaped from the village after I contacted my mother. A person we knew in the village helped; my mother told me to come with him to Dhaka. My mother gave me the money for transport.
My mother told me that my father was married a few times before he married her. My father used to mistreat these wives a lot. In the same way, my father often abused my mother. My aunt and uncle told my father to keep his wife in the village. My mother was taken to the village. My grandmother used to tell my father lies about my mother, as a result he tormented my mother. Later my father left for Dhaka in search of work. He didn’t contact us for a long time. It was very hard for my mother to feed us in the village. She used to work as a day labourer in the paddy fields. Sometimes she used to beg to feed us. My father returned a few times to the village but each time he tricked my mother to take money from her. Then he left again. There was no mercy in his heart for anybody. My father was crazy.
My brother is addicted to drugs. He used to study in a madrassa when he was young, but he was a little different from the others. He didn’t understand like the other children. Then he was brought to Dhaka by my mother, and my stepfather can’t tolerate him, he is violent with my brother and angry with him when he is not working. So, my brother started to drive a rickshaw. Later he got in with a bad crowd and became drug addicted. He doesn’t work regularly. If he comes home one day, he stays outside for two days.
My stepfather doesn’t pay for the family anymore. Everything is managed with my mother’s money. My mother doesn’t always have a job. When there is work, we can eat and drink. She works as a daily labourer, and she makes tk.400-500 ($3-4) daily. My stepfather works as a security guard, but he doesn’t want to pay for the expenses of the family. Besides, we got into a lot of debt during the Covid-19 pandemic. My mother and I were unemployed, and we had to borrow money to eat. The house rent went unpaid for a few months. We still haven’t paid it.
*All names have been changed