From morning until evening the ghats at the Chitolia to Bakchar ferry crossing on either side of the Rajatrekha River in Munshiganj sadar upazila are lively. Commuters jostle; trawlers vie for space. For the trawler drivers, the waterway is the setting for the long days of hard work that make a livelihood. Among them is mother-of-two Jiasmin Akhter. As a ferrywoman, she's one-of-a-kind.
“When my husband died of cardiac arrest three years ago the situation was desperate,” thirty-two-year-old Jiasmin recalls. “To make ends meet, for me and my daughters, seemed impossible.” Jiasmin, from Bakchar village in Adhara union, pursued about the only option she had: to continue to run her husband's motorboat service.
Daily she arrives at the ghat at around 6 a.m. to work through until nearly 8 p.m. of an evening. Passengers pay Tk 10 to cross the river and she is able to ferry up to 600 passengers per day. After paying for diesel it leaves around Tk 300 to take home daily, enough to manage her family and keep her children in school.
At first, the sight of a female trawler driver turned heads. “We were used to seeing men as trawler drivers,” says elderly local Rahim Munshi. “But we got used to Jiasmin. Attitudes have changed. People admire her.”
“It's challenging work for a woman,” says one passenger, Safura. “But Jiasmin works successfully on her trawler all day long.”
“I think it's encouraging to see a woman like Jiasmin take on the non-traditional work of a trawler driver,” says Shafique, another passenger. “After her husband's passing she had the courage to take on the responsibility for her family and that's really wonderful. In the struggle for survival, Jiasmin's spirit is indomitable.”