The task of finding a good situation to live in is almost double the trouble for female students
Finding affordable accommodation in Dhaka, when you are a university student, is already a very challenging task, what with the rocketing cost of rent and amenities. The task of finding a good situation to live in is almost double the trouble for female students.
Price too high for women
According to Sadia from Jessore, finding a secure and comfortable place with affordable rent near her university (IUB) was quite challenging. “I had to go through many advertisements on Facebook and on foot, and also had to invest a lot of money, energy and time to find a good place. I paid around Tk9,000-10,000 when I first moved to Dhaka in 2016. I shared a room with another girl, and shared the washroom with two other girls. The food was really bad. However, it was quite safe, at the expense of having to return by 10pm every night. Now I pay Tk12,000 for better quality food and facilities.”
Sadia found her current two-bedroom apartment, which she shares with a friend, through a relative of her flatmate. For finding safe accommodation Sadia suggests: “If you are searching for accommodation, it is good to start the search online through Facebook, or websites such as Bproperty. You must also keep an ear out among family and friends, to know of any opportune place that has been given a To-Let posting.”
Arbitrarily unfair laws for female tenants
Taha Sun Nahar, who arrived from Rangpur and is currently studying at Ulab, also elaborated on the problems faced by female students searching for accommodation. “Firstly, accommodation for girls is not easily available. There have been many times where the rent given on the Facebook post did not match the rent the landlord eventually asked for once we visited the house. Secondly, they have these weird restrictions, such as no visitors or friends allowed. The money we pay is hefty, yet I am not allowed to bring even my parents. How am I to spend four years of my life here without showing them my home?”
Safety and unreliable landlords, who often “up” the price when it comes to women, are not the only barriers for female tenants in Dhaka— almost all the women this reporter spoke to complained of a certain level of moral policing from their landlord or other tenants,.
Why female tenants are treated with more caution?
Radia currently lives in New York. Regarding the conservative nature of landlords in Dhaka, she said: “I understand where they come from. Our culture is conservative, and the concern comes from the safety issues of women in Bangladesh, which is quite undeniable. However, I think landlords should definitely meet the parents of the students, and understand the lifestyle of their tenants. It is better to know someone, before judging them.”
Fatema Tuz-Zohra also told Dhaka Tribune: “In my student days, I shared rooms with two of my female friends in Uttara. My current husband and then boyfriend would often drop me home on his bike after a day out. Sometimes, my colleagues dropped me home in their car. This led the other nosy tenants of the building to frequently make ill allegations towards me and my flatmates, saying we were bringing disrepute to all of them for living there. The landlord finally decided to give us the notice to leave. Now that I am married with a husband, it is far easier for me to get a house. These are the kind of double standards existing within our society.”
Lack of dormitories for women
IUB is one of the few universities currently providing a dormitory for their female students, albeit at a significant distance away from the campus on rickshaw. The IUB Saima Hall is in Baridhara and it is only for meritorious students, which makes it quite inaccessible to a large number of students, who focus on jobs and extracurriculars during their student life.
Shanto-Mariam University of Creative Technology (SMUCT) also provides accommodation for students, both boys and girls.
Tahmina, who currently lives with her husband after completing her Masters from SMUCT, told Dhaka Tribune: “I never lived in my university dorm as I was raising my son, but since I worked at Shanto Mariam Foundation, I have seen they provide dorms for everyone. I wish more private universities provided dorms, as a safe space for living is crucial for the peace of mind required to study. Students can focus better.