Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A marriage is everything in a woman’s life

Dechen Zangmo is a Politics, Philosophy & Economics Major undergraduate student at the Asian University for Women, Chittagong, Bangladesh. It’s quite inspiring to know that Dechen (along with her six college friends) had spent her entire last summer break in Merak, Trashigang. They visited this remotest place to do their two-month long Summer Project on Understanding Teenage Pregnancy in Merak. They have conducted an extensive survey visiting and interviewing women and collecting information. And their findings shocked them.
The natives were unaware of the importance of education and health and hygiene, and were also ill-equipped to deal with different complications during the time of pregnancy and delivery. Teenagers need lots of positive re-enforcement in order to develop their self-esteem. 
That’s why Dechen and her friends taught at Merak Primary School for one month, raised awareness on family planning, menstruation, contraceptives and cleanliness, and dietary tips for pregnant women. 
One such finding (prepared by Dechen Zangmo), a story of a 65 year-old woman, I’ve post here. If you care about women (who are suffering in sullen silence) and empathize about their problems, you must read this finding.
When going around the community surveying and interviewing different women and girls, I reached a construction place.  There, I spotted an old man breaking a piece of rock. And nearby him was a woman almost the same age of this man. A lad sprinted out from a makeshift hut next to the construction site with an empty bucket to fetch water. I went closer to this woman and greeted her with a smile. This family was living at this makeshift hut as their house was, then, under construction. Surprisingly, this old woman, 65, was so agreeable and welcoming. She spoke so frank that she shared everything unlike other women who tend to hide and give us the wrong information. Below are her answers to my interview questions.

"I was the only child to my parents. I wish my mother had given birth to a few more siblings, so that at least I could to go to school. Always, I had a big dream of becoming important person in life so that people would recognize me. But my life never progressed the way I had fervently wished for. In fact, it took me into an unexpected different turn. 
When I was only 10, my father passed away. After that life had become a struggle and painful for my mother as she had to handle everything by herself. In 1961, when I was 14, my mother insisted and influenced marrying a man because she needed someone to herd the cattle. I couldn’t reject this decision of my mother. It was very painful to see my single mother struggling everyday. We were only two, me and my mother. And without a male member in our family, we had to fight against the poverty all time. We were very poor without the decent three meals a day. Every time, it was the same as every harvest would always leave us with inadequate foods. Everything about our life was a struggle. There was no sunshine in our life, and we never knew what happiness in life is.  
Eventually, I had accepted to my mother’s decision to marry at early age. However, the marriage denied me my hopes and shattered all my dreams. My husband wasn’t what had I expected him to be. He was three times older than me. My mother’s intention to relief herself from all those suffering after my marriage had bizarrely turned out to be even worse for her. After the marriage, as our culture would have, I stayed with my husband rather than staying with my widow mother and helping her. 
At my in-law’s house, I had to carryout all chores-both household and field works. However, I was lucky that my husband was very supportive and caring. He would help me in my chores and sometimes send me home to meet my mother. But my in-law parents were very authoritative and commanding. Even after the marriage, I was considered a minor. I was not allowed to speak unless necessary. Even, I could never raise my head at them. Again, even after the marriage, it’s the same. My husband’s family, too, was poor. The poverty seemed to never end in my life. 
Those days, there wasn’t any BHUs or hospitals in our community. I never heard of any birth control contraceptives. My mother, my in-laws and my husband were unaware of the consequences of early marriage and teen pregnancy. In total, I gave birth to 12 children. 
My first pregnancy was a sheer accident. I even didn’t know that I had conceived because there was no BHU where I could go for checkups. Also, I didn’t’ know about the due dates. 
That’s why I gave birth to my first child while I was on the way to my pastureland. It was raining hard, and my husband was with me. I was suddenly attacked with an unusual pain in my lower abdomen, and I was unsure how to deal with the situation. I fell off on the muddy ground. My husband immediately covered me with a plastic sheet that he used to protect himself from rain. The pain was unbearable, and still I can’t say precisely what the pain is. I could hardly breathe. 
After the pain, I started experiencing vaginal bleeding. Nothing did stop me from bleeding. In a while, I was totally drenched in blood, and of course in rain and mud. Even my husband could do nothing to reduce my bleeding and pain. There was no other escapism. We didn’t know that we have to refer hospitals. 
After a few hours, I felt way worse pain and pressure in my vagina and that is when I realized that my baby was coming out. In a sheer terror of pain, I screamed and tried hard to push out the baby. But halfway, the baby got stuck. Then, my husband pulled off my skirt, spread wide my bloodied legs and he started pulling out the baby. That’s when I became complete unconscious. 
I regained my consciousness only when my newborn daughter gave a sharp cry. I was still lying on the muddy ground. I saw my husband taking off his jacket and covering with it our baby girl. In fact, seeing this baby of my own brought me an enormous light of joy and happiness. I looked at her adoringly as her father held her in his arms. By looking in her eyes, I saw the paradise and unconditional love. Lying down right next to her, I wanted so much to give her the life that I had always dreamed of. I wanted to send her to school so that she can grow up be a good person, a free person, and an important person. 
The brutal truth is that I wasn’t relieved from pain even after giving the birth. A clump of flesh kept hanging down between my legs. It was placenta coming out after 5-6 hours of pain. Hours seemed like ages to me. And the pain was getting worst and it was unusually scary. 
The nearest place that I could seek for shelter and nursing was our cowshed, about a couple of hours walk from the place where I gave birth to my daughter. And I walked to this cowshed, my body still paining and bleeding. Even during such time, we did not have good foods to eat and warm clothes. My husband had prepared porridge and made me to drink it. After that I gave birth to two other children. 
My life seemed like a string of accidents, one suffering begetting another. After this, another disaster knocked me off. My husband passed away, quite unexpectedly. I had become a widow at very early age. And it had cut me like a knife when he walked out of my life. How can my kids grow up without their father? I felt hopeless and handicapped. 
Despite all this miseries, I had always tried hard to be positive and aspire for things to happen in my life, but every time, it was all struggles and pain. It’s like a bullet on my heart. Nothing did change my life and mend my broken heart. Every time, I would be staring out into those dark nights only trying to hide my pain. 
Hoping a better future for my children, I married again. I was 17, then. But this second marriage brought way worse misery to me and my children. My second husband was an alcoholic. I gave birth to nine more children from him. We had never experienced harmony in our family as always our day would begin and end with incessant quarrels and fights. But he never changed his habit of drinking, not even for the sake of his children. Tears never stopped filling my eyes. My second husband never quit drinking. Poverty never left us. I always had a very difficult time with my 12 children. I would hide my tears even when I hear and see my children crying out of hunger and cold. Our main source of income was from cattle. But we had a few of cattle. 
Today, we don’t keep cattle. We depend on construction works for our livelihood. The income now is much better as some of my children work for wages in the construction works. In the past, education wasn’t common in our time. I never thought of sending my children to school. Out of 12 children, I could send only one child, the youngest one, to school. 
Now, I can see and feel the importance of education everywhere we go. Only education can empower and rescue people from ignorance and poverty. I’m happy to see many individuals and organizations that are creating awareness on importance of education and medical facilities. Today, schools and all kinds of medical facilities are available here. I would love to see all teenage girls making good use of medical facilities to prevent themselves from unwanted teenage pregnancy, health complications, and miserable life like I had lived. 
I am 65 now, and I know I can’t expect and do anything more in my life. But I wish best for my children. My children, all of them, were born and brought up in a cowshed and pastureland. They know nothing more than what I do. They are no better than me. My life is all about sufferings, struggles, regrets, mistakes, and poverty. But, as always, I will keep holding onto my last hope-that my children find better life and live in bliss and plentitude. I am here today, and it’s just a matter of time only. I know that I would die sooner or later."


  1. Thanks for sharing it sir...it's always more informative and provoking in reading your posts...Keep us thrilling sir....

  2. Very touching and sensational post la sir!
    The time may be different now, yet I feel there are still many parts where the story is but a reality.

  3. Well done Dechen and the group! At least, you all are serving as the bridge between those people in the remote with the rest of the world!

  4. Thank you Riku Sir for having posted my article here in your blog. Your blog has always been a source of information and inspiration for many people who handles internet and I am one among many. Actually I am always the one who press the like button whenever your new blog comes up, but when it happens to be my article I was bit nervous and excited as well. Thank you very much!!!!

  5. kudos to all -

    @Dechen @ Riku - please advise best way to make a small monetary contribution for her & her family to buy jackets for the harsh cold winters? Or if I buy them how best would u advise to ship to them?

    Thank you.
    A Pelden Drubi Migser
    New York

  6. You (through Dechen) shared a very pertinent concern. Education is important but more important for our girls. Thank you for sharing.

  7. Heartbreaking story. It's was like watching an African movies.
    My heart goes out to that lady who could not only give birth but also bring up 12 children and live 65 years so far.
    Through Dechen's story and your blog I hope helping hands will stretch to those who need help, so that no woman has to relive this horrifying story. OOOO I am freaked.

  8. Thank you all for your wonderful words! In fact, all this appreciations are well deserved by Dechen Zangmo who could dare to write down this story and agreeing to share it here on my blog. I am honoured with your words, and more importantly appreciate Dechen for writing this beautiful story.

  9. Aaah,beautiful write up! This post left me in tears (God knows why!) I wish the best for this family and thanks to all the new available facilities and make the best of it.

  10. Wow...it's really a heart breaking article. i could see that woman and feel what she experienced since her childhood. It's shocking to learn that she was mom of three by the age 17. The author has described beautifully to let the readers see the poor lady's life. Hats off to Dechen. Your article left me in tears.