Currently 6 women working in the petrol pump
Women who have been working at a local petrol pump in the Bandar upazila of Narayanganj feel empowered and fortunate because of their job, in spite of being sneered at by many people who know them.
The "Plana Filling Station" at the Kamtaal Langal-Khand area beside the Dhaka-Chittagong Highway is also known as 'Mohila Pump' (women pump) because it has hired women, unlike most of the petrol pumps in the country.
The filling station has been employing women since 2003, and now there are six women working on two shifts. Happy, Mala and Jesmine Akter work on the day shift from 2 pm to 10 pm while the shift of Rikta and two other women begin at 6 am in the morning.
Five years ago Happy Akter with her husband moved to Narayanganj from Moulvibazar for a better living. She said she was desperate for a job but no opportunity was available to her as she had no formal education.
She said: "One of my neighbours helped me to get the job at the filling station. I am working in the pump for four and a half years and have been able to support my family smoothly , combining my husband’s income with mine."
Jesmin has been working at the station for three years, she said she was deeply satisfied with the work environment at the pump. "It is not possible to bring kids while working in the garments but here we can bring our kids and the owner helps us a lot, we are like family."
Another employee Mala has been working at the filling station for 8 years and living in its quarters with her husband and two children. She said: "I was married young and could only manage to pass the SSC level. My husband and I both are working in the filling station."
Rikta Akter the 30-year-old woman is the oldest employee of the filling station. She has been working in the pump for 15 years.
She said the manager of the filling station brought her under the pay roll after she started doing her job well. Like Mala, she also works with her husband at the petrol pump. "As a woman we do face some challenges working here. Not all the people we know can accept us working at the filling station. We have some women among our colleagues whose families do not know that they work here.
"Earlier there were more working women but their families took them away when they were informed about the workplace."
Rikta added that they want to prove that the RMG sector and domestic work are not the only options to earn a living for poor women deprived of higher education.
Khalil Khan, a 22-year-old worker of the filling station, said: "We never think about being a man or woman when we work at the petrol pump. All of us work together like a family. But sometimes my male colleagues and I are discredited by our surroundings as we work with women."
He added: "Although I am not concerned about what others think, we could be more comfortable in our jobs if people change their mindsets a little."
Wasim Jabedi, son of the owner Saiful Islam of the Plana filling station said: "My grandfather founded the filling station but when my father started managing it, he decided to employ women. He says if women can work in the garments why not in the filling stations."
"My father started employing women to create job opportunity for the poor women,” Wasim added.