"Being a woman I never thought I`d be the Chairperson of the Greenland market committee. Now hundreds of people come to the market and that would have been impossible a year ago when it was nothing more than an unhygienic slum market" said 50 year-old Kohinoor Begum who has been with the market for the last 10 years.
Zobeda, a fellow shopkeeper added that a year back, shopkeepers had to go to back to their houses if they wanted to use the bathroom. She continued, "If we even wanted to drink a glass of water we had to close our shops first".
Greenland is khas (public) land under the authority of Bangladesh Railway and is located adjacent to the railway station in ward no 21 under the Khulna City Corporation. About 1272 households, most of which are female headed have been living there for the last 30 years. In total roughly 5000 poor and extreme poor people used to live in slum-like houses there, where basic services and infrastructure facilities were non-existent.
UPPR formed a cluster named Turag there, which was made up of 8 CDCs. In 2011, UPPR invested Tk. 10,47,038 for the construction of four concrete structures with tin roofs which measured 12 x 4m, to house the new Greenland Market. Along with the market a 40m footpath was constructed along with 20m drainage facilities, one deep hand tube well, two latrines and two urinals to transform the marketplace from a slum market to a fully functioning hygienic market place.
Now currently around 60 extremely poor women are operating small business there as daily sellers amidst the organized community facilitated by UPPR. 20 poor women, out of the 60, received block grant supports amounting Tk. 5000 each from UPPR for their business and since then have not looked back.
Rowshanara, a block grant recipient said that she received Tk 5000 two years ago when she was about to leave Greenland as she had no formal place to live. "Now I have a small house, a running business and my son is in school," she says. From almost leaving the area to digging her roots in, she has come a long way and says she owes it all to the development of the market and her block grant. She continues, "People would not have been able to stay on here as they were not earning enough money and the facilities were bad. Now that there is a real market, we can all earn and make our lives better by fixing our houses."
The market is situated on the banks of the river Bhairab, where now the roofs are covered with coloured corrugated iron sheets which make the place look good as well as providing protection. Due to the salinity of water, UPVC casing has been used on the RCC columns as a protective measure. A committee has also been formed with nine members for 2 years to help operate and maintain the market. Here women have been given leadership positions which they ordinarily would not have had and have made a success of it.
This infrastructure has created employment opportunities, mobilized poor and extreme poor while also empowering women. In addition, it has increased economic mobility within the communities who are now on their way to self-reliance.