Mosammat Jasmine, Bangladesh's only female rickshaw puller (Getty)
45-year-old Mosammat Jasmine from Bangladesh has worked hard to gain her community's respect. She is the only female rickshaw puller in the Muslim dominated country and is often addressed as the "Crazy Auntie".
What made her become a rickshaw puller, a job that in so many ways arouses her society's ire?
Five years ago, her husband ran away with another woman and she was left to fend for her family. A mother of three, she did not care for the gender stereotypes predominant in the society and started with a couple of jobs that didn’t suit her.
She worked as a maid but according to her, "it’s good if you only have to worry about yourself but not if you’ve got children". She also tried her hand working at a factory, but in her words, "work at the factory is back-breaking and the pay is really poor". She eventually started pulling rickshaws on the streets of Chittagong to make a living.
In an interview with The Hindu, she said, “I do it to make sure my sons don’t go hungry and they get a decent education at a good school. Allah has given me a pair of hands and legs to work with. I don’t beg--instead I earn a living by using his gifts.”
Mosammat, struggling to survive and pay for her kid’s education, then rented out her neighbour’s rickshaw. Initially she faced severe criticism for doing what is traditionally considered to be a man’s job. She found it hard to find customers, and if this wasn’t enough she also faced the physical challenge of pulling a rickshaw in the bylanes of the subtropical country.
Many even taunted her and refused to board her rickshaw citing Islam--claiming that it doesn’t permit women to roam around like this. Meanwhile, those who did board didn’t pay the same fare they would pay a male driver. “I stuck to my guns as who else pays my bills, who is else is going to cover the cost of educating my sons?” as per The Hindu.
From then to now, "Crazy Auntie" has come a long way-- earning a lot of respect in the community and helping her family.