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      Volume 2 Issue 19 | September 29 , 2007 |


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From Bogra
Maksuda Begum: Making Sweaters

Even when her household struggled her dreams were alive. She lived with her husband and son huddled up beside the heated stove, trying to stay warm on the chilly days. These days, however, that no longer happens. You will find them wearing warm sweaters of varying colors. Her days are moving forward, unlike the difficult times her family went through seven years ago. Her dreams are coming to life. Even though her body is plagued by illness, at least her newfound financial freedom is making things a lot easier to bear.

That's the story of Maksuda Begum. Let's hear about her struggle. Tirelessly working towards her goal steadily took her towards it. She watched a program on the television set next door about clothes woven out of cotton and wool. She wanted to do things herself but really had no means of getting started. One day she told her husband about her grievances, he listened. He then seriously started thinking about what he could do to get the ball rolling. He consulted some other people too and started to make plans. Later it was Maksuda Begum herself who had the brightest idea. She sold a plot of land to get Taka 80,000 and borrowed some money from an NGO and started working on the verandah of her own home. She started working with just one machine. She worked all day and all night. Woke up at dawn, did all the household chores and set to work on her machine. At first, she would do everything herself; the sewing, putting on the buttons, putting the sweaters in packets. People from around would gather and watch her. They would watch, some would laugh. But Maksuda was too stubborn to care about what anybody said. She went on working. She went to a sweater factory in Mahimaganj of Gaibandha and underwent training for three months to learn the ins and outs of sweater-making. At the end of her first year, she bought another machine: one for making socks. In a span of three years, she bought machines worth taka five lakhs. She set up her up 'factory' as was her dream, and named it “Rakib Sweater Factory” after her son.

Maksuda Begum's business strategy is that she purchases her raw materials at a time when people say is bad for winter clothing manufacturing. She buys the thread cheaply, pays her workers cheaply and makes her sweaters in the off-season. The monthly wage of taka 2,500 rises up to taka 5000 in the winter season. In the winter, then, Maksuda is reaping up the profits. Her sweaters are going like hot cakes. She can barely meet the high demand. She has convinced her husband to get training. Her husband Abdur Razzak has done some research on pigments and is now helping Maksuda. The face of her household has changed. The factory has changed locations; it is no longer in the verandah of her house. The factory is now situated on a piece of land in Baghopara Port where there is a sweater machine, a muffler machine and a socks machine. People from far away come to the factory looking for work. Maksuda Begum generally doesn't like to disappoint them. She trains them for free. After three months of the training, the trainees start work at the factory to pay off the training fee. Maksuda puts a smile on the faces of these underprivileged women. She does this out of consideration for their economic circumstance. So far she has trained about 70-80 people. When asked whether her work schedule created any problems in her family life, she said, “everything has been done through struggle. There will always be problems in family life.” But she also admitted that without the support of her family she would not have been able to achieve this.

Maksuda believes that because of her struggle, she can now see good days. She wants her daughter to be educated. She doesn't want to marry her off until she gets a BA degree.

Maksuda's business which started off with nothing now has taka 2.5 lakh in capital. She has started a cooperative society. She gives loans to the poor.

She claims her products are of high quality. If she gets help from the government she will be able to export her products abroad. Her sweaters are currently being sold in Dhaka, Rajshahi, Faridpur, Sylhet, Bogra and other districts.

Maksuda's sweaters sell for taka 40 to taka 50. She says, “a poor person can now afford a muffler, and yet they could not, just a few years ago. A muffler that used to be sold for taka 200 now sells for taka 40-50.” Her business has moved towards success. And hopefully, it won't stop here.


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