Working with Shola to Overcome
Handicapped Sirajul used to go from door to door trying to make his livelihood. He had only one leg. It was his only source of income to take care of his family. Nobody gave him any work because of his handicap. One time he had joined a printing factory. But after he lost that job, he was plunged back into poverty. Later, defeated by struggle, he left his family.
At one point, he went to India and took a job at a factory where flowers were being made with shola. While working there he started thinking about how he might be able to teach this skill to the disabled of the country. After several years, he came back to his country with training on how to use the material shola to make toys and other articles. He has made handicrafts and dry flowers along with the disabled. About 50 handicapped workers are currently working at all times. Different kinds of flowers made by shola are being sold in different parts of the country including Aarong in Dhaka.
Sirajul Islam is the son of Jamal Haq of Shahebganj Bazaar under Faridpur upazila in Chandpur district.
He said, he'd taken a job at a printing factory in 1966 and worked as a composer in different newspapers. Later, he became unemployed in 1980.
He married Marjana Begum, daughter of Mohammad Ullah of Nardahi village under Kaligonj upazila, Jhenidah. He has four children. But after becoming handicapped he pretty much gave up. He left Bangladesh for India and took a job at a printing factory in South Pargana district. Later, he moved to Kolkata. He did shola handiwork at an Australian company.
Sirajul Islam said the handicapped were not only stigmatised in society but they were also neglected and thought of as burdens to society. Thinking so, he decided to set up something that would honour the disabled.
Sirajul Islam said he came back to Jhenidah from India. One of his brother-in-laws was handicapped. He built a factory named Regal Handicrafts and Dry Flower along with his handicapped brother-in-law and other disabled folks in 2004.
Sirajul Islam said he got shola with the help of villagers from water bodies and canals. The villagers supply shola for money. At first Sirajul trained five villagers to cut shola and to make flowers and garlands. Over time he trained at least a hundred villagers. Forty of them were handicapped. Sirajul added that at first the handicapped people did not want to work thinking it would be too hard.
Later Sirajul built another factory at Barobazaar under the same upazila as that business brought in a lot of profit. At present one hundred men including 50 handicapped are working in his two factories.
Physically impaired Aklima Khatun said she is in class 8. She is a daughter of a poor day labourer. Her hands and legs don't work right. People avoid her. Her family has not allowed her to continue studying. She works in Sirajul's factory. She gets Tk 40 per day and continues her studies with this meager income.
Another handicapped man, Nurul Islam said he works here and earns Tk 50-60 every day and maintains his family.
Sirajul Islam said that at present around taka one lakh worth of flowers are being made every day which are being sold in different shops including Aarong in Dhaka. Besides, many customers buy flowers from this factory. Sirajul added that these shola made flowers are in great demand. He added that he had already erected a stall for the International Handicapped Day in Dhaka and got awards several times. He really hopes that one day he can get loans from the government to further his business.
(R) thedailystar.net 2009