Volume 2 Issue 29 | March 15, 2008 |


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From Bogra

The Silk Village of Dhunat

The upazila of Dhunat lies to the south of Bogra city on the banks of the Jamuna. A quiet, modest part of that upazila is the village of Boalgacha. Normally even people from other villages in the same upazila don't visit Boalgacha, so for outsiders it's out of the question. However, should you lose your way and find yourself in this little village the sounds of the spinning wheels will immediately tell you that this village is busy making cloth. And if you can't resist to the urge take a peek at what kind of cloth is being weaved here, take a look and you will be amazed. Row and after row of women are engaged in making cloth. What they are making is the regal fabric- silk. This is more expensive than other fabrics and has a great demand in the market.

Women from about five families have found employment in 'Silk Village'. These women take care of every step of the process from cultivating the larvae, to producing the thread to weaving it into cloth. Year and after year they have worked in this low profile village and have changed their fates. A lot of them have gone from abject poverty to being the owners of land, houses or cattle. Even after becoming richer than before, they have not left their village. They stay there trying to develop the place further.

If you go six kilometers south of the middle of Dhunat upazila along the paved road, you will get to Bishwaharigacha Bazaar. This bazaar is no different from all the other bazaars in Choukibari Union. From there, go another kilometer west along the mud path. There stand Boalgacha village. Right in the middle of the village is 'Resham Palli' surrounded by a tin fence. Even though this place produces only cloth, the surrounding areas make a lot of other things regarding silk production.

The economy of Dhunat upazila is not all that it could be because of consistently getting flooded. Their sustenance is basically whatever they produce on their own- needless to say often this is not enough. During the floods their lives become very difficult. An NGO was formed in 1987 to combat all these problems. And about fourteen years ago, at their initiative, silk cultivation started in this area. And from the silk, of course, the silk saris are made. The process of making silk is one that is fascinating and complex. It is a good idea to witness it firsthand to really understand it.

When Baly Begum was divorced along with her seven-month-old daughter for not being able to pay her dowry, she had no place to go. She fell into a crisis after losing her husband and being unable to go back to her father who himself was struggling to feed the mouths in his household. Years later, she started working at the silk village. She spent 13 years there. Her daughter is now 24 years old. Now she thinks she's well off enough to take care of herself. She still wants to marry off her daughter though.

Lovely Khatun has been working there for three years. She is 21 years old and is the youngest woman there. She earns about 100-125 taka per day. She feeds her siblings with her earnings. She said she was married off when she was 15. Her husband's family was satisfied with a 'small' dowry of taka two thousand. But less than one year into the marriage he disappeared. He had told Lovely that he was going to Dhaka to become a rickshaw-puller. But after leaving, because he didn't come back for so long, Lovely returned to her father's home. Just like Baly, Lovely then decided to start working. Now she is the sole earner of a six-person family.

If you want to see some of the silk produced at Dhunat, you can visit the showroom at Bogra's Sherpur upazila. The showroom is called Surangan. The silk speaks of how a lot of women have come out of dependence over unreliable men, and taken charge of their lives.

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