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Structurally instituted social inequalities, in addition to conflicts of inheritance, poorly implemented gender equal policy attempts for land and its systems of administration make ownership expensive for the average person thereby excluding many citizens from the prospects of acquiring a permanent shelter. This leads to the mushrooming of informal and often unsafe temporary settlements in major urban cities. Unclean rivers polluted by wastage makes the water available to slums unhygienic and is a great contributor in illnesses especially found in children. There exists a lack of policymaking to address poverty alleviation or mitigation which allows the excluded people of the citizenry to resort to such abodes, and this lead to slums being built in the Sub Saharan Africa.
Regardless of the nature or origin of slums they are characteristically similar in terms of the poor quality of lands, the size of its construction, and the conflicts of vague communications of when signing lands over. The crime rates are seen to be escalated in areas of greater poverty. Also as time has progressed, one major obstacle to growth of this situation is these benefits that accrue to the slums which have now become commercially beneficial to both the dwellers as well as corporations who get easy access to their labours in return for the labour to find employments as well as a housing arrangement. This helps in the development of the society organically. The authorities responsible of instilling change and appreciation of the situation are local landlords whose interests lie in leasing or renting their lands to desperate citizens seeking slums. Due to the strategic placement of these residences the labour seeks the houses while in turn create an informal market for the apparent demand. The otherwise employed majority population of Sub Saharan Africa commute through public transportation system of the bus or railway which does not contribute much to their health but takes away from development and convenience due to the time and energy opportunity costs.
We conducted surveys of women in Dhaka slums to establish the struggles caused to the most vulnerable socio economic group that is victimized despite urbanization. These revealed insights to the earning, saving, and expenditure behaviour of families residing in the slums. They also revealed how economic growth and infrastructural development have contributed nothing to the development of the underprivileged whose conditions remain as they always were.
The reason why slums have been populated, at the core of those mentioned above is the prevalence of the urban dream in the city. Low earning unskilled individuals from the rural areas migrate to the cities pursuing development efforts aspiring to get consistent and secure jobs that will secure them. Once in the city however, they find their capabilities unmatched with the needs of job roles. The lack of education, vocational training, and finances restrain these individuals into the cities and force them to dwell in the slums by doing menial labour work which due to the oversupply of labour fetches very low and mostly inhuman wage rates. This creates a poverty spiral whereby they neither have the means to go back nor the ability to afford a dignified living in pursuing their ambitions even though all members of these households work temporary wage jobs regardless of their sex or age. Results of the survey revealed the following:
Expenditure on Food: Naturally, one of the main expenditure of the families is on food. 33% respondents claimed that they spend an amount of up to BDT. 2500 per month, on food related expenses. This amount varies from family to family as per their income level. The highest amount spent on food exceeds BDT. 10,000 and this too is affordable to only 1 of the households of the slums. This means that more than one third of the socioeconomic strata live on a food budget of $ 31.25 per month as a family. Since most of these families on average comprise of 5 members so per person expenditure on food in a day is barely 25 cents which does not even buy one full meal a day. Under these situations it is only natural for them to be malnourished, feeble, and prone to many diseased. It also explains their disinterest in striving for hygiene or education in their spending habits as supported by the data below.
Expenditure on Non-food Items: As opposed to the expense on food items, the ratio of the amount spent on non-food items is very low. For example, the highest amount paid in terms of non-food is BDT. 10,000 dispensed by only 1% of the families. Usually this amount is BDT 2000 spent by almost all the families on items such as payment of bills, house rent, etc. So, the spending that takes first and only possible priority after food for these households is that on the essentials contingent to their shelter i.e. rent and utilities. Due to the nature of these dwellings however, these utilities are still not available at all times, and so they have to ration their water, electricity and gas by sharing kitchens and toilets. In spite of this, the expenditure possible for the majority remains at $25 a month per household which for the average family member translates into 16.67 cents per day. Usually after these basics, most families exhaust their entire incomes.
The nature of the work that runs the slum dwellings are twofold, mostly designated by gender. So women mostly work in garment factories on a daily wage basis where their work varies according to training and years on the job, while keeping extensive work hours, and unsafe, uninsured workplaces constant. So much so that when there are factory fires which are not very uncommon, workers numbering over hundreds die and most of them are found to be women. Despite some social and labour union support these factories have taken no measures in protecting the employees who subscribe to the exploitation due to the dire necessity of survival. Even where there have been successful efforts with administration and inspections, factories were found to be only placing empty fire extinguishers for show of safe work environments while remaining oblivious to the appreciation of the lives of their workers.
The men do not have any more privileges than their female counterparts. They are mostly rickshaw pullers because this is the least skills requiring job. These pullers are second to the working women in the garment factories who make up the greatest number of employments in Dhaka. The 200,000 rickshaw pullers of Dhaka work all day for a bare $1 a day, and that too in fierce competition between the licensed and unlicensed ones, both of whom are harassed by police who not only seize their only means of earning i.e. the rickshaws but often burn those which are found illegal. The female counterparts of these rickshaw pullers on the other hand travel as far as 37 miles on foot to work and back, amid traffic and pollution which the city is best known for.
A third group of workers bringing money into the households of Dhaka slums are unfortunately children who number in 750,000. Boys between the age of 10 and 14 spend their days in generating incomes by any means they can find. Usually these are in the likes of a “help” in shops and restaurants, or in pulling rickshaws or carriage vehicles known as vans. Otherwise they are seen selling items by roadsides and in signals. A portion of children as small as 7% aged 5-16 pursue schooling despite their troubles. Sometimes, little girls are sold into prostitution as sex slaves to repay debts to heads of brothels who charge high commissions from these under aged girls. Since prostitution is legal in Bangladesh, the demand for these girls from clients is not questioned legally, and their desperate conditions at home allow them to be exploited and pushed into sex slavery.
To further the analysis of the findings, the following variables: age of respondents, education, Income, Marital Status, Sources of Income and Total Income, Savings on Sources and Total Savings, and Type of Training were found to be significantly correlated with a number of variables using the Pearson Chi-square at 0.05 P-value. These findings can be considered as having a valid basis for identifying actions for empowering women particularly in the socio-economic life both in the family and in the community.
Position in the Society: Interestingly, the participants want to work as they believe it will help them in alleviating their position in the society and their voices will also be heard. Working not only will bring additional income to their families but will also entail more empowerment and freedom to them.
Assets: In the case of assets, the highest response was 284 representing an 88.2% of the sample who own furniture. At the opposite end, 2 respondents representing 0.6% of the sample are owners of business land. In addition to these, cattle owners make up 2.5% and agricultural landowners make 4.7% of the surveyed sample.
Savings of respondents in various sources: The sources of savings for the respondents are inferred to be quite limited as the highest participation was seen at 35 responses affirming a mere 10.9% savings due to NGOs or Rural Cooperatives. Even less popular with 4 responses was the 1.2% savings that comes from crop. On the other hand, bank as a source accounts for 9.9% of savings and cash does so for 3.4% only.
Total savings: When total savings are assessed, it can be deduced from the responses of 262 participants that in a rather alarming 81.4% cases, no savings occur. In contrast, 8responses helped deduce that 2.5% of the sample saves a total which is within Tk. 1001-2000. The data helps assert that among the 269 responders, 83.5% save between tk. 0and 20000. The percentage of responses for above tk. 60000 for households is still as low as 0.6%, as shown by the 2 responses received for the range of tk. 60001-80000. The middle amount of tk. 20001 to 40000 made up 14.3% of the cases.
Sources of income: 156 responders showed that a decent 48.4% of their incomes are generated by the effective delivery of service. Also, at the lower extreme of income generation is the 0.3% contributions made by the handicrafts market or beyond that, the good 23% of women working as maids who develop and manage the household activities.
The data helps assert that among the 269 responders, 83.5% save between tk. 0and 20000. The percentage of responses for above tk. 60000 for households is still as low as 0.6%, as shown by the 2 responses received for the range of tk. 60001-80000. The middle amount of tk. 20001 to 40000 made up 14.3% of the cases.
Facilities and service Available: Total 322 responses delivered that in 100% cases, 3 Health clinics, 3 police stations and water pumps are unavailable to the survey participants. The water pumps were not available for the subject’s area as were not many other crucial amenities which are required for the quality of health and life.
Type of training: Of the 288 people approached about training, 89.4% reported that they have received no training. The lowest response came from 1 person and helps infer that 0.3% people received the training for women empowerment. Training in tailoring occurred for 4.7% cases and that of garments stood at 3.4%.
Awareness: It is seen from the data that awareness in general is quite high in the sample studied. 258 responses presented that 80.1% are aware about human rights, and the lowest response of 226 people shows that 70.2% are aware about property rights. In this sample, awareness for family rights was 73.3% and that of violence against women stood to be at
Regarding day to day expenses: 41.6% of the daily expenditure is spent by the women on themselves according to 134 responders. In the lowest case, 2 responders show that 0.6% expenditure occurs by the consultation of the respondent but the needs of her husband and son are prioritized.
Regarding other matters: The survey conducted with 216 responders revealed that 67.1%were spending for the purpose of clothes. Additionally, 198 responders revealed that 61.5% is spent on festivals donations. Also, 65.5% of expenses are spent for educating children.
Borrowing details: The borrowing sample shows for the 36 responses11.2% occurs from Cooperatives while the lower response of 10 individuals presented that 1.1% borrowing occurs through NGOs. The greater response of 206 participants revealed that borrowing does not apply to the practices of 64% people.
Based on our study these are the recommendations that we would suggest:
The migration to urban parts of the country is motivated mainly by the negligence and despair in the rural side where the permanent abodes of people and their workplaces i.e. the agricultural lands are prone to climatic catastrophes. When their backs hit bottom, these people migrate for hopes of a better living standard and for availing more secure lives for their children. So, the issue of migration and how urbanization affects the lives of migrants should be dealt with meticulous planning which incorporates them into economic development policies that provide social protection and integration so as to drive social change from them. Many NGOs and development related organizations are already expending their efforts and finances into the slums of Dhaka for improving the livelihoods of the people who dwell there. Such efforts were largely based on provision of micro credit loans which allowed the residents to pay off their dues without having to be dependent on the brothels, or without having to sacrifice the education of the children. In addition, extensive trainings and awareness campaigns regarding liquor, evacuation at times of threats and the like have also been conducted in these impoverished areas. Much more effort is still critical for the desired outcomes to be produced. Training of vocational nature should be provided so as to develop skills that have better job prospects in order to generate higher incomes for the households. These can range from machine using to making handicraft items that will allow the adults of these households to create products. Also, they need to be honed and encouraged for small business start-ups, starting from creative business strategies to the execution of them. These would also entail leadership and managerial training in the long run. In these efforts, NGOs alone will not be enough. So, government, local banks, and other private organizations should collaborate to help the people in their own capacities. Banks could provide less costly loans, while businesses can help train and agencies can help execute and teach so as to make the people of such slums independent and self-sufficient. The need for social campaigns about women empowerment and child rights also need to gain momentum to eradicate the prevalent abuse of the two vulnerable groups.
The government should also institutionalize change by active policy making and administering. This could be done in attempts in the likes of building safer, more hygienic, more facilitated housing facilities for those who have already migrated to Dhaka and are susceptible to dangers of earth quake, fire hazards, or illnesses. The government may also create better job opportunities in the rural areas so as to discourage or omit the reasons which force people to migrate in the first place. Rural development projects should also be undertaken with equal focus and allocation of resources. These would include well defined action plans that teach farmers about their rights, train them about their crops, and yield, aware them against exploitation by the middlemen and market prices so as to secure their incomes. Furthermore, efforts are required to equalize the salary gap that exists between the two sexes of the lower income socioeconomic strata, because this would not only help increase overall earnings for most families, but also facilitate the lives of households which are run by females working in labour using jobs.
Needless to say that neither government, nor NGOs and development agencies can hope to be successful on their own. There needs to be collaboration of these parties for their common stakeholder group so that they can use specialized knowledge, and resources in specific areas and bring effective changes everywhere instead of segregating their efforts which is found to help a few while ignoring many others entirely.
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