A Policewoman in Bangladesh
Sergeant Tanzila Khatum, 28, directs traffic in the Bangladesh capital, Dhaka. Women have not always been allowed to join the traffic police – at present there are only 16 of them. The traffic police work days in two shifts and at night the job is done by special officers. Khatum is the youngest of five daughters of an army officer and the only woman in the family who goes out to work. She shares a two-room flat in a hostel with a woman who works in a bank.
Income, basic costs, retirement provisions
Khatum earns 337,000 taka (€3,400/£3,000) a year. She pays a quarter of her salary into a pension scheme and about €5 a month for health insurance. Her tax bill comes to €50 a year. That leaves her just over €200 a month. The rent for her room, including electricity and water, comes to about €15 a month and she spends about €2 a day on food.
What does work mean to you?
In Dhaka there is no underground system or commuter railway so the roads are always totally chock-a-block. I am proud of having a job in which I can help people. It does not matter whether they are politicians in big limousines or bicycle rickshaw riders – as a traffic policewoman you help everybody and that’s what I like about it.
What is the most important thing in your life?
For me, my job is more important than my private life. When I’m at work I think of nothing else.
What would you like to change about your life?
My family wants me to get married soon. At the police academy I had to be single; that’s the rule there. But now I have finished my training I’m planning to get married soon. A lot of men are put off by my job. But there are others who want a wife who is good at her job and who likes doing it.
What do you do if you want to give yourself a special treat?
I mostly go to the beauty parlour. Since I am exposed to the sun and dust all day long, I have to take care of my skin. And I love ice cream and strawberry ice cream is the best.
What would you do if you did not have think about earning your own living for a whole year?
Not work for a whole year? I can’t imagine that. But if I had a few weeks’ holiday I would travel to India. The scenery in Darjeeling and Mandalay [in Myanmar] is said to be very beautiful. That would be a journey I would like to do with my future husband.
What makes a good traffic policewoman?
When at work you have to be polite, to your superior officers and to the people in the street. In this job you need patience and authority. The uniform helps with authority because in Dhaka it is not just the temperatures that are high nearly the whole year round. The people are quick to boil over, too, especially in the rush hour.
Population: 163 million
Currency: taka (BDT), (98 taka = 1 euro)
GDP per capita (2015): €1,343
Human Development Index: 139th
Current average costs
1 kilo of rice: €0.53
1 kilo of sugar: €0.71
4 eggs: €0.33
1 kilo of beef: €4.39
1 white cotton sari: €6.54
1 scoop of fruit-flavoured ice cream: €0.97