Behind the Scene
Ershad's Handmade Paper
At first, it was unthinkable for me to try and set up a handmade paper industry in this day in age. But now, after seeing the increased demand for these products, I see a ray of hope”, said Ershad Ali, owner of a paper manufacturing firm at Kalia Kandapara in Sirajganj town.
His products are now being exported after having gained popularity and fulfilled the demand in Bangladesh. The paper is made from jute leaves, cotton, grass, straw, other leaves as well as other chemicals used in the making of various products like shopping bags, drawing paper, picture frames and greeting cards.
Ershad expects that the demand for his locally made paper will increase if he gets some support from the government or some NGO. Older people in the village say that there was a time when the Kalia Kanda Para village was famous for its handmade paper and had the nickname Kagojipara back in the British era. About 250 to 300 families were involved in this sort of work at that time. Some time in the 1940s this became an obsolete industry due to technological advancements in papermaking.
Many decades later, Ershad Ali, 50, of Kalia Kandapara in Sirajganj town returned to the older tradition of handmade paper by setting up his workshop at his home in the village with the help of some woman workers. He started this in 1979 and started making paper from recycled material. Since then he has become famous for producing high quality handmade paper which he is distributing to other countries as well.
At present, about 70 workers, mainly women, are engaged in this venture led by Ershad's wife Farida Parvin. He hired a group of young women who have some experience in this sort of work. The helpers work from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm everyday and earn about Tk. 50 to Tk. 60. They make around 350 to 400 sheets of paper every day, they said. Around 112 varieties of papers are handmade this way just using the raw materials.
During a visit to Ershad's little business, I saw about fifty women busy working on various types of paper. Ershad has built a big tin-shed house and bought some land in the town by running the business, even though he was once homeless and landless.
Ershad says, “I wanted to do something for the poor and distressed women in our village. I started up this business in my own cottage with a little bit of funding. I also got inspiration from my wife Farida since the beginning. I feel that I have been successful and about 70% percent of the women I wanted to help now have jobs.”
He also lamented that although this locally made paper is now gaining popularity in the country and abroad, he is yet to receive substantial financial help from outside that could give his business a great boost.
(R) thedailystar.net 2008