‘Go home early, you are a woman’

Seema Rani issues cyclone warnings over megaphone in Kalapara
Seema Rani issues cyclone warnings over megaphone in KalaparaCollected
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Seema Rani got married on 11 March this year. She enjoyed about a week with her husband and new family and ever since then she has been busy at her work place, joining the fight against coronavirus, warning people about cyclone Amphan and going from house to house mobilising public awareness.

She can’t resist a good laugh as she recounts her experiences. ”When I go around raising people’s awareness about corona or Amphan, they say, ‘go home early, you are a woman!’ Then I tell them, if you all stay at home, or go to cyclone shelters or remain safe, then I can go home early! The more you delay, the later I will return home. Most people listen, but some don’t want to understand the situation.”

I am human and naturally I am scared too. I wear gloves and use all sorts of protection against corona. I took all sorts of precautions during Amphan, too. But it won’t do if I just remain scared. It is my responsibility to make people aware. I am working with ultra-poor families who hardly have any awareness about these issues. Even if they are aware, they cannot always follow the rules and regulations because of the surroundings and circumstances in which they live.
Seema Rani, programme coordinator, BRAC ultra-poor graduation programme, Kalapara, Patuakhali

Seema Rani works as a programme coordinator in the Patuakhali Kalapara branch of the NGO BRAC’s ultra-poor graduation programme. She is responsible for raising awareness among 103 families concerning child marriage, birth control methods and other issues. She conducts yard meetings. After the COVID-19 outbreak, she has been raising public awareness about how to remain safe from the virus.

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On Wednesday, people grew concerned all over the country about cyclone Amphan. In order to prevent damages to people and their property as much as possible, Seema and others on her team went about with their megaphones from 8:00 in the morning till 2:00 in the afternoon, warning people about the cyclone and advising them what to do.

Speaking over telephone on Thursday afternoon, Seema said, “I am human and naturally I am scared too. I wear gloves and use all sorts of protection against corona. I took all sorts of precautions during Amphan too. But it won’t do if I just remain scared. It is my responsibility to make people aware. I am working with ultra-poor families who hardly have any awareness about these issues. Even if they are aware, they cannot always follow the rules and regulations because of the surroundings and circumstances in which they live.”

The cyclone caused relatively less damage in Seema Rani’s work area, she said. But there had been no electricity for long and she was unable to charge her cell phone. “I was able to contact all the people of the area and return home,” she said, “but my parents in Pangsha, Rajbari, and my husband Uttam Biswas in Dhaka were worried about me because they couldn’t contact me over phone. Once electricity was restored, I charged my phone, called them all and let them know I was fine.”

Seema Rani has been working with BRAC for over 2 years now, first in Madaripur, then Faridpur and then Barguna. She joined her present work place on 25 March this year.

Seema Rani has been working with BRAC for over 2 years now, first in Madaripur, then Faridpur and then Barguna. She joined her present work place on 25 March this year.

Talking about her personal life, Seema said, “I got married on 11 March, an arranged marriage, but spent only a week with my in-laws. I last saw my husband in 21 March. I don’t go back home for the sake of their safety. I sometimes feel I am forgetting what my husband even looks like! The family keeps asking me when I will go home. Pray for me, that I can meet them all again soon. I may go home during the holidays.”

Seema Rani has confidence in her voice. She is relieved that so far no one of her family, or anyone among the 103 families of her work place, has had symptoms of coronavirus.

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