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Monday, April 6, 2015, Chaitra 23, 1421 BS, Jamadius Sani 15, 1436 Hijr

Interview of Salma Khatun
The pioneer in the history of Bangladesh Railway
Farhana Naznin
Published : Monday, 6 April, 2015,  Time : 12:00 AM,  View Count : 27

Salma Khatun always craved to do something exceptional that others never did. Her desire to inscribe her name into the extra ordinary field drove her to be a train driver as the first Bangladeshi lady. In perspective of Bangladesh, it is unusual that a lady drives a passenger train.
"I have tolerated all humiliations to be a trailblazer in the history of Bangladesh Railway so that a woman, if she wants, can drive the carriages just as a man does,'' said Khatun to The Daily Observer.
Salma Khatun's home district is Tangail, Vuapur Thana at Arjuna village. She completed her graduation and did B ED as her aim was to be a school teacher initially.
The Bangladesh Railway's announcement for a post of train driver in 2004 stirred up her desire to do something special and she applied for the post with her elder brother.
She got qualified for both written and viva test. She was the only women selected for the post with others. She joined the railroad as an Assistant Locomotive Master (ALM) in 2004, and completed her departmental exams, training and proficiency tests to become an independent driver in 2011.
At the first day when her call came to drive a train from Laksham Station to Noakhali, she went through a nerve-wrecking moment but the uncle who was her local guide inspired her. She got ready to erase her nervousness.
Salma Khatun drove a local train with 150 passengers for the first time, from Laksham Station to Noakhali town. Driving more than 25km, she set a new record for a Bangladeshi woman in the country.
When she reached in Noakhali she saw many people gathered at the station in order to see her. The gathering of huge people imparted a belief inside her that she could do something exceptional for what she craved for a long.
"It was a big moment," Khatun said. "My long term desire was fulfilled," she added.
Muslim-majority Bangladesh is a male-dominated society knitted by traditional conservative values. But Khatun said her family and colleagues encouraged and supported her dream, but the problem lies with others who still cannot accept a woman as authority.
Khatun is the only woman among nearly 500 passenger train drivers on the state-run railway's routes that cover 3,000 kilometers.
People on the platforms often make rude comments, sometimes they spit, sometimes they throw stones at a moving train, and give hostile looks as if it were a sin for a woman to be in the driver's seat of a passenger locomotive, Khatun said.
"This is not an easy field for women. It takes a lot of trial and tribulation to survive here," Khatun described reflecting on her experience.
However, the more women will join this profession, the earlier social perspective regarding this job will be changed, she believes.
Bangladesh Railway sources said seven women in the east zone and eight women in the west zone are working as ALMs. It takes around 10-12 years of experience as an ALM to become a loco master.
Only Salma Khatun, among these 15 women, is experienced enough to drive a passenger train. The total number of ALM is 788, the sources said.
To mark the International Women's Day on March 8, 2015, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) has awarded 29 women pioneers of the country. Along with that they also awarded six women for their courage in their individual field. Salma Khatun is one of the six ladies to be awarded for her courage in the field.
"This award is a big achievement for me and it will inspire me to go ahead. My job is very risky but when I think about this award I forgot all worries," concluded Khatun.

Editor : Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury
Published by the Editor on behalf of the Observer Ltd. from Globe Printers, 24/A, New Eskaton Road, Ramna, Dhaka. Editorial, News and Commercial Offices : Aziz Bhaban (2nd floor), 93, Motijheel C/A, Dhaka-1000. Phone :9586651-58. Fax: 9586659-60, Advertisemnet: 9513663, E-mail: [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]