• Monday, Dec 16, 2019
  • Last Update : 01:01 pm

Tiger-widows: A struggle for survival

  • Published at 01:06 am November 12th, 2019
Tiger widow, Rashida Begum
Tiger widow, Rashida Begum Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

No tiger widows are allowed at social gatherings while they hardly receive any shelter or assistance from their in-laws

A year after Cyclone Aila devastated massive areas of the Sundarbans, Alam Gazi, an experienced honey gatherer went to the Sunderbans to manage a livelihood for his family.

As soon as he entered the mangrove forest that spans India and Bangladesh, he was attacked and killed by a tiger in 2010.

Today, his wife Rashida Begum is among 21 so called “tiger widows” living in Gabura Union of Shyamnagar in Satkhira district.

“There was nothing left for us as he was the sole breadwinner and all three of our sons were kids. We had no food, no job, so we had to work here and there for a living,” said Rashida.

Rizia Khatun's husband Islam Sarder faced the same fate about 15 years ago. Her son Rezaul, a 30- year old man now, takes up the family's responsibility as a honey hunter.

But the trauma the family faced since the death is not over yet with the local community superstitious about all tiger widows, at times blaming them for the death of their husbands. 

Tiger widow Rezia Begum from Chalkbara village, Gabura, Sheymnagar, Shatkhira | Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

No tiger widows are allowed at social gatherings while they hardly receive any shelter or assistance from their in-laws.

“We are living in extreme hardship. No one cares to inquire about how we are living. If there is something we ever received, it was a Tk1 lakh compensation from the government which I have used for my house,” said Rashida.

They continued thus till non-government organizations came to their rescue by working at removing those superstitions.

Currently, organizations like Onirban, Durjoy, Jagroto Bagh Bidhoba and Nari Shongothon Leaders are working on reintegrating tiger-widows back into society and dispel the myths surrounding them, although progress is still very slow.

According to local NGO leaders, over 1100 people, mostly Mowals (honey hunters), Bawals (who gather golpata), and fishermen dependent on the Sundarbans, have been killed by tigers in the last 10 years. However, the deaths of people has decreased with the declining number of tigers.