Nothing could stop Sumana (pseudonym) from marrying Asad eight months ago. Their five-year long affair was not accepted by either of their families and so they eloped and got married. But Sumana's dream of having her own home lasted only a few days as Asad soon went abroad and stopped communicating with her.
Asad later married another woman with the consent of his family, Sumana found out.
Going back to parents was not easy for Sumana. She is living in Dhaka now on her own.
"There is a huge difference between two signatures - one for marriage, one for divorce. A lot has changed for me within this short period of time. But I am determined to start afresh," said Sumana.
When everything was falling apart for Sumana, she found a platform on Facebook to share her struggles with the others who also went through tough times in their married lives. The platform - Bangladesh Divorced Club - provides mental and legal support to the divorcees.
Another member of the platform Mohammad Jahidul Haque saw a lot of ups and downs when he went through his divorce - a devastated career, depression and finally his family refused to keep any connection with him anymore.
"I took the challenge to change my life and was doing good. When I came to know about the club and got to know about others' stories of pain and suffering, how everything changed in their life centring on just one event of life, I felt that it was not my personal pain anymore. It was my social responsibility to help break the taboo surrounding divorce," said Jahidul.
Journey of the club
Divorced Club was founded in March last year by Shahadat Roni, a businessman in Dhaka. It has already reached almost 18,000 people.
The club celebrated their second get-together at a restaurant in Dhanmondi in February. As part of the celebration, the members of the group posted their photos to the group timeline with the caption "Stop me if you can."
In response to a question about who was trying to stop them, the admin said, "In our society, divorce is still a taboo. After divorce, the divorcees usually receive judgemental looks, comments and so on, instead of getting mental support from the family and society. Such judgemental behaviour creates obstacles for the divorcees trying to return to normal life," said Roni.
"Forming a club, gathering at a place where fellows share their feeling and embrace a new way of life through socialisation was not easy for any of us. But we have overcome it and stood for each other. So nothing can stop us anymore," added Roni with a smile.
The idea of creating such a platform came to Roni when he was going through the lengthy and troublesome process of his own divorce last year.
He said, "When two people decide not to lead their life together, that's completely their decision. But the lengthy legal process and negative perceptions never leave them alone. Some succeed in overcoming it themselves, some fail and carry the burden throughout their life.
"My own painful experience led me to create this platform where we can share our feeling and get support," Roni said.
Activities at the club
With more than 100 active members, the group is trying to make the platform stronger. As they have members from different walks of life, they tend to utilize this variety in various ways.
Through response in messenger to any divorce-related problem, the moderators provide primary support. They also arrange counselling programmes with experts in the sector. Legal support is also provided by the lawyers.
Based on the financial solvency of the divorced people, the group members also try to help one get a job or start his or her own business.
"Though our women are doing great now, there are some women who struggle with financial problems after divorce. One of our main motto is to help them become solvent. We are trying to raise funds and help them start their own business," said Roni.
Members are concerned about privacy
Though Bangladesh Divorced Club is a brand new initiative to deal with the problems of divorced people, there is still privacy concerns among the members. They are trying to break social taboos. Most of them do not feel comfortable in acknowledging their connection to this group. They fear social stigma while sharing their pictures outside the platform.