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     Volume 1 Issue 7 | September 30, 2006 |


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From Satkhira
Nakshi Kantha Changed her Life

Abu Ahmed

A petite woman in her mid-fifties, with cloth strewn all around her, concentrates on a needle and thread to make a table cloth.

Some people stare at her with disbelief in their eyes since Tanzila is busy sewing a tablecloth sitting on the verandah of a local NGO Rishilpi run by two Italians, Enzo Falcone and Laura Melano. The onlookers knew Tanzila as one struggling to manage two meals a day for her sick day-labourer husband and two sons and a daughter. But many of them do not know that her trying time has been over. Her face reflects the changes she has witnessed in the last few years.

Needlework products by women artists are being exported to many European countries and the USA. With her income from sewing 'Nakshi Kantha', cushion covers and tablecloths, the once poverty-stricken housewife has now built a semi-brick house. Above all, because of her work now she is managing her family successfully. Her eldest son is a B.A. Honours student, the youngest son and daughter are studying in class ten and eight respectively.

Through hard work and courage, Tanzila has won the battle against poverty. “Hard days are gone and I don't want to recall those haunting moments”, Tanzila murmurs sitting on a mat in her house. Tanzila is now taking part directly in economic activities breaking a long-standing tradition that deprives half of the population from being economically active. It has been possible because of the assistance she got from a local NGO, Rishilpi.

At the age of fifteen, Tanzila, daughter of a day labourer, got married to another day-labourer, Ayub Ali of village Taltala in Sadar upazila. Starvation started when she became a mother of five and her day-labourer husband could not feed the family with his small income. Once she even thought of ending her life, said Tanzila. A miracle happened about 24 years ago when the director of Rishilpi, Enzo and Laura came to rescue her and offered her to join the 'Nakshi Kantha' section of the NGO. They advised her to first take training in sewing 'Nakshi Kantha'. She started attending a training course, but some so-called clerics tried to obstruct her from going out of the house for work saying it was prohibited in Islam. But she ignored all threats. She had no option left.

After she completed her training, the NGO provided her cloth and other materials and also inspired her along with other distressed women to manufacture needlework such as Nakshi Kantha, cushions and tablecloth. Gradually she became a producer of the Nakshi Kantha section. Her devotion and skill helped her. Now she earns around Taka 200 a day.

“This has fulfilled my dream of higher education for my sons and daughters. My eldest son Milon is now studying B.A. Honours in Management. My youngest son and daughter are reading in class ten and eight respectively which was a dream only a few years ago”, she said, “The NGO is helping not only for the education of my sons and daughters but also for the education of others' children.”

“I married off my two daughters who studied up to class nine. They are happy now”, she continued. “I am grateful to Rishilpi Directors Enzo Falcone and Laura Melano for their help”, she added.

She said, like her, over 300 distressed women are working in the Nakshi Kantha section of the NGO and most of them have become self-reliant.

Her efforts have created awareness and hope for better life among many distressed women in the area.

While talking to this correspon- dent, Laura Melano said that 300 distressed women are working in the Nakshi Kantha section and they have earned reputation in needle works. Their products are being exported to foreign countries and earning foreign currency, she added.

“It is a great pleasure for me that at least 2500 distressed women have been trained in different trades by the NGO, all of whom are now working in different trades and have become self-reliant.

It is also a great satisfaction to us that over 2500 women are working in our factory and taking part in economic activities ignoring the social taboos”, said Director, Enzo Falcone.

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