06/25/2020, 12.56
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Christian beauticians leave Dhaka and return to their villages because of the coronavirus

by Sumon Corraya

Thousands of women have been forced by the economic crisis to quit their jobs in the city and go home and work in the farm. Many are ethnic Garo Christians.


Dhaka (AsiaNews) - Santa Rema is a beautician who used to work in Dhaka. Two months ago, she returned to Jalchatra parish, in Tangail.

“I worked at a well-known beauty salon in Dhaka,” the 30-year-old Catholic woman said. “In March, I lost my job and went home to Jalchatra. Now I work on a farm as a day labourer."

She says she used to work with air conditioning in the beauty salon, but now she works in the open air in the rain and sun. For her, it is difficult to work.

Nipa Sangma is also a beautician with a story to tell. To change life, she and her three brothers worked at several beauty salons in Dhaka, but after the coronavirus pandemic began, they were all out of work. They returned to the village of Jalchatra and are now working in the fields to survive.

“To change our fortune, we learnt to work in a beauty parlour, which is now closed due to the coronavirus,” she explained. “That's why we couldn’t stay there. To survive, we are working in the fields.” Now she wants the government to help until the coronavirus crisis is over.

These stories are not just about Nipa and Santa, but about thousands of women. Protap Rema, who heads the Nokmandi Community Centre, a Garo rights group, explains that after the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, Garos have found themselves in inhuman conditions.

He is worried by unemployment in the Garo community. Of the 30,000 Garo Christians live in Dhaka, 90 per cent are unemployed. To survive, many have had to return home to their village.

“As far as I know, in the city of Dhaka, more than 4,000 Christian Garo women were employed in beauty salons,” he noted. “In addition to supporting their family in Dhaka, they also sent money to the village, but are now out of work. Many beauticians are returning to the village because they cannot bear the costs of living in Dhaka.”

However, since many Garo children study in Dhaka, their parents cannot go home so as not to affect their children’s education. Beauticians are having a very difficult time.

Protap Rema says that there are about 110 beauty salon owners in Dhaka who are in a bad situation, because all beauty salons are closed and without revenue. He noted that the famous Persona beauty salon chain employs 2,500 Garo women.

According to Varitia Parishad, president of the Baharan Sultan Bahar organisation, some 50,000 people left their rented dwellings in Dhaka during the coronavirus pandemic.

Many others have stayed in Dhaka with family, but, because of lower revenues, others are sending family members back to the villages. Jubair Ahamad, a street food vendor, is one of them.

"I sent my wife and two children back to the village of Natore,” he explained. “I left the house I rented because my income dropped by 50 per cent. I couldn't have survived if I hadn't sent my family to the village.” Now Jubair is staying at a cheap men’s hostel.

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