Dulali quickly picks herself up from the decrepit bench at the roadside tea stall as she gazes at the setting sun. She has been walking for three hours now and would like to reach her destination before sunset. It would take her another two hours to reach Alipur village in Rafinagar union. The sun sets early at this time of the year (late winter). The haor area is considered unsafe for traveling alone for a woman after the sunset let alone a Hindu woman.
Dulali Talukdar is a community mobilizer for CLS EJLAS project in Derai Shunamganj run by Assistance for Slum Dwellers (ASD) a CLS grantee. She has to conduct a courtyard meeting the next day with the women of Alipur village who are mostly Hindus. During the dry season, it takes her about five hours to walk from her own village to Alipur. The other alternative is hiring a motorbike for Tk.600 which is beyond her means. She prefers to start a day early before the meeting spending the night with one of her volunteers to appear all spirited for the meeting in the morning. The only decent sari she has got dirty from the dust, now she has to borrow an extra set of clothes from her colleague to look decent.
For Dulali, an important task is to inform people in the community about the free legal service delivery of EJLAS and take note of cases of abuse for reporting to the EJLAS office. Most lyshe engages in courtyard discussion with women on the harms of dowry, early marriage, also the new law which encourages Hindu women to register their marriages.
Majority of the community members in Rafinagar union live on government ‘khas’ lands and earn their livelihood from the nearby haors. They assign issues related to occupation of khas land as the uppermost cause of dispute here. Troubles related to early marriage and domestic violence are also widespread. The poor community ascribes their troubles to ill fate or God’s wish. Going to the court is seen as the last resort due to the cost and its physical distance. Dulali’s presence at their doorstep is a welcome change for many as she seems like somebody who is interested in listening to their problems and is seen as a springboard to attaining justice.