We met Merina the day before when we went for a photo-shoot. There is one thing you will notice about all BRAC CSAs around the country, their smile!
Merina could be close to anyone with her big smile! She wears hijab and has a slight Rajshahi accent.
When we went to the Paba office of Rajshahi again the next day, she was already there, unknown of what we were going to ask her.
The smile seemed to fade here and there as she was taking us through her life. You could tell which struglles were the hardest, no matter how many words she’d be sparing for them.
“If you don’t own yourself, no one does”
Originally hailing from Nababganj, Merina Khatun(27) was married to Mahmud Kabir Hossain(30) and lives now in Baya, Paba in Rajshahi. Merina was married after completing her HSC from Paba.
She lives with her family. Her only child Khadija(5) goes to BRAC Kindergarten. Her husband works in a cold storage.
“We were doing fine until we lost 70,000 taka (USD 882) in a failed attempt for my husband to go abroad. But indeed we were saved from a big fraud, since we decided not to pay more money. My husband was unemployed at the time. So was I. And in this world, no one owns you, unless you own yourself”, she was already in tears.
“I can’t help crying when I recall these. My own parents, his parents, everyone refused to take responsibility for us. Now I live in my parents house, but we pay the rent.”
We wanted to know more about her journey.
Journey with BRAC
“Back in those difficult times, we both didn’t have jobs, and I was going through massive torture in my in laws house. My mother in law is a great person. My my father in law would humiliate us, so much that even our neighbors would tell me ‘You’re an educated girl Merina, why should you stand this. You should go to the town and look for jobs’ I decided to listen to them.”
“I was a teacher in BRAC school first. My salary was BDT 1100(USD 14), my husband still didn’t have a job. But we left our in laws house and came here. We hardly had any furniture. We survived.”
Merina taught students as well. Her husband was unemployed for a year. She earned just 2000 tk (USD 25). But despite all this, she saved. She started saving with BRAC knowing she might need money in case she is pregnant. Her savings reached 10,000 tk (USD 126).
From Teacher to CSA; From CSA to bKash Agent
Her husband finally got a job in the same company he worked before, but at a position far below than where he was before. At that time Merina’s friend was a Customer Service Assistant for the BRAC Paba office. She was leaving her job. Merina knew there was a vacancy. She applied and was selected.
“I heard about bKash but never used it. No one in my family actually used it before. It was very interesting to learn it, since I never knew any other use of a mobile phone, I could only make calls. I must admit I was bit unsure at first. But now when I’m given the smartphone, I am confident that I can learn how to use it. It’s fun right. You can just touch the options!”
Merina’s salary has increased as a CSA and also after becoming a bKash agent. She became a bKash agent in August 2016.
“It was July 2013 when I started working as a CSA. My salary was 2100(USD 26) and I was getting 3495(USD 44) by this year before I became a bKash agent. Now I get additional 1600 tk (USD 20) from BRAC for my role as an agent.”
The Client Service
Merina was stormed with questions by the clients, as we let her continue her work in the middle of our conversation.
“Those were some complex questions I guess! How often do you get them?”
“Well the questions are very common and asked by almost everyone. Problems with remembering pins, how to call 16247 (bKash helpline).”
Merina has been trained on a new mobile app that BRAC has developed to support the CSAs. It provides 4 services: Bar, Unbar, Pin reset and Transaction Confirmation.
“It’d be lying if I said I know the app too well. I’m still learning. It’s really interesting!”
“Do you lose clients?”
“Of course we do. A client sent us an installment of 39000 tk, but unfortunately for some server issues of bKash the payment didn’t come till the next day. Since we don’t force any client, he decided to pay in cash and not over bKash. He was very scared!”
Merina has registered 178 new bKash accounts in Paba branch since August.
“In the first month we had only 28 applicants, in just 4 months, we had 90 applicants registering. Seems we’re on the right track!”