Looming out of Poverty
Golam Mostafa Jibon
Rowshanara lives in Char Saidabad village of Sirajganj Sadar Upazila. The village is located to the west of the Jamuna Multipurpose Bridge, about half a kilometre away from the highway. Since February 2006, Manab Mukti Sangstha (MMS), a local voluntary organization, has been engaged in developmental activities in the district under the 'Shouhardo' Program funded by USAID, with technical assistance from CARE Bangladesh. A 'Well-being Analysis' by the programme put Rowshanara's household in the 'poor' category. But Rowshanara has been working hard to change that label.
Before 'Shouhardo', Rowshanara worked as a handloom worker and earned about 200 to 250 taka per week. Her husband Toiab did the same work, and earned about 400 to 500 taka per week. With three sons and a daughter to support, it was hard for the family to make ends meet.
In 2007, Rowshanara received 1,500 taka from the programme for 'Income Generating Activities' (IGA) for starting a small business, under the 'occupational group' category. With this money, she decided to buy and sell Saris, and in just six months, her capital increased to 8,000 taka. She and her husband then decided to invest in a handloom machine; after just two months of working on the machine together, they had made enough money to buy a second handloom.
Rowshanara became a member of MMS's 'Income Generating Program' (IGP) group and received an additional loan of 8,000 taka. With this money, she bought her third handloom and was able to pay back the first loan very quickly. She then took another loan of 20,000 taka and bought two more looms. She has already paid back 16,000 taka and now only owes 4,000 taka. She has recently bought another loom and now owns a total of six handlooms - enough to start a small factory.
In 2009, MMS linked Rowshanara up with the Sirajganj District Office of the 'Bangladesh Taat Board', so that she could access proper technical assistance regarding designs, colour combinations and financial support.
Her husband and eldest son now work in the factory, while the two younger sons and daughter go to school. Due to extreme poverty, the eldest son did not have the same educational opportunities as his brothers and sister. But thanks to the looms, and Rowshanara's efforts, the circumstances of the family have changed for the better.
After paying all costs and salaries of the workers, the small factory earns a monthly average net profit of 10,000 taka. This would have been unimaginable only a year ago - since this family could hardly manage three square meals a day back then. Now, not only can the family meet all their basic needs, they have enough money to save for an even better future.
Rowshanara and Toiab have also bought some land for 20,000 taka. Her father-in-law has cultivated paddy in the land and Toiab has helped out with farming when he was not busy with his loom. They harvested around 120 kgs of paddy in April 2009, which was divided between the father-in-law and Toiab's family.
Along with Toiab and his eldest son, there are six people working in the hand loom factory. Rowshanara's six loom machines and one thread-cutting machine are valued at around 60,000 taka. She has recently refurbished the room that houses her factory. Last month, she built an additional room for the family, at the cost of 10,000 taka. The 'poor' category of the MMS 'Well-being Analysis' now has at least one less family.
(R) thedailystar.net 2009