From parlour to plantation | The Daily Star

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Only three months ago, Thanchi Mri would spend her days giving women beauty treatments in air-conditioned rooms of a parlour in Dhaka.

The hours were long but each month she made around Tk 17,000 enough to support herself in the capital and her grandparents in Chunia village of Tangail’s Madhupur upazila. 

However, the coronavirus pandemic changed everything in a jiffy. On March 15, the parlour closed down to stem Covid-19 and Thanchi returned home penniless.

Now she toils as a labourer under the blazing sun in pineapple and banana plantations of the upazila.

“I have become used to working in air-conditioned rooms for the last seven year. Now working at plantations with a spade and a sickle is proving quite difficult,” cried the 24-year-old beautician.

Thanchi now makes only Tk 250 a day, that too only four days a week.

Beautician Lakkhi Rani, who returned from a parlour in Jamalpur to Madhupur’s Maguntinagar village, could not even manage plantation work.

With a sick mother at home and a debt to repay, she is grappling to make it through every day.

Lakkhi, who used to earn Tk 14,000 per month, came back home empty-handed on March 13 without any salary.

“I couldn’t find any job in my village. I have heard that many other girls like me are working as day labourers in the banana and pineapple orchards. But no one gave me work,” Lakkhi told The Daily Star on Wednesday.

She said her parlour owner contacted her recently and told her to look for work elsewhere as the establishment is not going to open for a couple more months due to a dearth of clients.

Now Lakkhi is worried about repaying a loan that she took from a NGO for her mother’s ulcer treatment.

“Although I did not pay the loan installments for the last three months, I shall have to do so from this month,” she said.

“A couple of months ago, the government gave us six kilograms of rice and one kilogram of potatoes. No one else gave us anything. I can’t describe how our days are going by,” she added.

Several hundred beauticians from the indigenous communities of Madhupur upazila, returned home after losing their jobs due to the coronavirus situation. They don’t know when their beauty parlours will open. Most of these women are very poor and have nothing but a dwelling.

The hands that once applied make-up on women’s faces now cut through the hard earth with spade and sickle at banana and pineapple orchards or paddy fields for nominal wages.

Eugin Nokrek, a indigenous leader in Madhupur and also president of Joinshahi Adivasi Unnayan Parishad, told The Daily Star that about 1,100 indigenous women of about 40 villages in the Madhupur forest area used to work in various beauty parlours across the country including the capital.

Most of them returned since the pandemic hit the country.

“Although government’s relief assistance was provided a number of times to the indigenous communities in Madhupur, no separate aid was provided to these unemployed beauticians,” he said.

He also said the local Upazila Nirbahi Officer asked for a list of these women and assured that support will be provided.

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