Shamsunnahar Mali, a mentally retarded adolescent girl, is kept tied to a wooden log near Kamalapur railway station in the capital every day.
The poor mother of the girl, born and raised in the rail station area, goes to work keeping her chained throughout the day.Jarina Begum, her hapless mother who works as a domestic help, does the same everyday out of fear that the girl, aged 18, might put her life at risk or go missing.
“I have to keep her chained when I go to work. I untie her chain after my return from work at night. I have been doing this for the last nine years only for her safety as she went missing many times when I stayed away from her,” Jarina said.
“She eats her meals under the same condition. Sometimes, she does not want to eat anything,” said her mother who sometimes collects used plastic bottles and other items to earn bread for her and Mali.
She said, “We understood that she is a mentally-challenged girl when she began behaving abnormally. At the age of three or four, she used to beat her companions and peers with whom she played.”
Jarina earns at best Tk 9,000 a month and cannot afford better treatment for her daughter. Her husband was a drug addict who did not help her to treat their daughter.
“I had parted from my husband as he did not help run our family. Instead, he used to demand money from me to buy drug items. I arranged her treatment on a small scale several times. I went to healers and other quacks many times but it did not bring any good result,” she said.“Mali’s father died when she was a little girl. I have been raising her on my own effort. I want her proper treatment,” she said.
“My daughter’s life is now uncertain and I have to resort to the same measure until she is mentally sound. It is always painful for me to keep her chained,” said the mother.
A kind-hearted expatriate man arranged her treatment at a hospital in Mugda and he promised to help more before going abroad. But they are yet to get any support from the government or any non-governmental organisation.
Mohammad Sujon, a distant maternal uncle of Mali who assists her mother financially, said, “She needs better treatment which can give her a new life.”
But any organisations working on physically challenged persons have never come to help her daughter, she said.