Bring Bad Luck
Rashida is heartbroken but unsurprised that her adult sons, aged 24 and 27, abandoned her and their two young siblings.
“They are part of this society after all,” the 45-year-old said, as she wiped tears from her eyes.
Her tiny shack has no roof — it was blown off by a deadly cyclone — but there have been no offers of help from neighbors or officials, who she claims helped others in the village but shunned her.
Instead, she uses an old tarpaulin to keep the elements out.
Next door, Mohammad Hossain was fixing his broken tin roof and confessed he had been instructed by his wife not to talk to Rashida.
“It would mar my family’s well-being and could bring bad luck,” the 31-year-old honey-hunter said.
Officials denied omitting Rashida from the help they provided after the cyclone.
But the head of Ledars Bangladesh, Mohon Kumar Mondal, said the mistreatment of “tiger widows” was widespread in highly conservative communities, which often held “centuries old” prejudices.
“They (charities) are working to restore the widows’ dignities. The main challenge is to change people’s beliefs,” he explained.
“The change is very slow. Still, I’d say there has been progress,” he added, noting that younger, more educated villagers were less fearful of the widows.