Vol. 4 Num 49 Tue. July 15, 2003  
Star City

Working at home pays more than house work
The Bangladesh Home Workers Women Association helps women to make a living out of their hobbies or any number of creative arts and crafts, while remaining at home

The light of dawn is hardly seen when Rahima Begum begins her day. She rushes to the kitchen to prepare foods for the family and then sends her children first to private tuition and then to school.

Rahima adopts a different role the moment her morning duties are done. Coming out of her daily chores, she starts the work that brings her an earning. The innate creativity of sewing and embroidery that was once her hobby now enables her to contribute financially in the family. These days she earns at least Tk 400 a month that goes towards her children's tuition fees and clothes.

Like Rahima, a large section of women in the city are making a living by working at home. Doing gorgeous embroideries in dresses, bed spread, cushion cover, or making the famous Nakshi Kantha both as bed covers or wall hangings, making pickles, or frozen snacks, block and batik printing, processing dry flowers------these women have translated their dexterity and enthusiasm into various commodities.

"The present changing socio-economic scenario compels women to opt for a little earning while staying at home since only her husband's income does not permit a decent living," said Ananya Raihan (not her real name) who makes cakes, muffins, samosa and supply to different stores. "Moreover, these type of work can be done by any woman since it does not require academic degree like other jobs. It makes a woman financially independent," she added.

Ananya's views are well-reflected in Naseema Sultana's life. Naseema, who got married at the age of fifteen, lost her husband at an early age. She began to sew and doing embroidery that was once her favorite pastime and took up a training course in batik printing and tailoring. Naseema got assistance from Bangladesh Home Workers Women Association (BHWA), who sponsored her for a training on Marketing of Handicrafts at Ahmedabad in India.

Due to her marketing ability and good product quality, Naseema now earns a handsome amount of money that enables her to send her two sons at prestigious private university and school.

Naseema was fortunate to get assistance from BHWA but there are hundreds of home based workers who are confronting various difficulties. "Our home based women workers get less wages even after offering labour for long hours due to their lack of awareness," said Dilruba Angoori, General Secretary of BHWA. "They work very hard but never appreciated and always neglected," she added.

Dilruba noted the law of the land does not provide any opportunity for the home based workers, as the institutional workers get. Institutional women workers get maternity leave, over-time, medical facilities but home based workers are deprived from everything, she said. "They lack social security and even hesitate to bargain with the shop owner while getting orders," Dilruba stated.

However, she noted the home workers have recently got recognition as institutional worker including their trade union rights as BHWA got registration from Ministry of Labour and Employment. She added BHWA has urged the government to include the rights of home based workers in the revised labour code immediately.