Weaving a better future

13 Mar 2014

imageSataranji, a special hand-loomed and woven carpet has become the light of hope for many women from the poorest region Bangladesh. Photo: UNDP Bangladesh.

Nazma Begum (40), a poor woman from Pirganj upazila in Bangladesh, is now sure that her children will not go hungry and can continue their schooling.

Earlier, struggling with sheer poverty, she was scrambling to find a work to maintain her six-member family, since her husband became bed-ridden due to a bone-related disease, two years ago.

'My husband's illness has been devastating for us as he was the sole bread-earner for our family. We have spent all our savings on his treatment, sold our cattle and I even had to stop the schooling of my children due to financial hardship,' Nazma laments.

'But the training on Sataranji gave me a new hope, a new life, and confidence to fight against poverty,' she says.
She is one of 30 women who have just received a new lease of life after completing a 15-day 'Skill Development Training on Sataranji Weaving for Women Entrepreneurs' at Pirganj upazila parishad under Rangpur district of Bangladesh. Sataranji is a special hand-loomed and woven carpet from Rangpur region that has been a very unique handicraft of Bangladesh.

The Upazila Governance Project (UZGP), under its fiscal facility grant, is providing the financial support to the training aimed at helping local and poor women in Pirganj upazila of Rangpur to enhance livelihood skills of women, particularly destitute ones, to improve living standards of the local communities and empower women.

Supported by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), European Union (EU) and Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), the Upazila Governance Project (UZGP) aims to strengthen institutional, managerial and technical capacities of the Upazila Parishads (UZPs), to ensure better public service delivery and thereby alleviate poverty. The five-year project is being implemented by the Local Government Division (LGD), Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives (LGRD& C).

'This is not just weaving a carpet or mat...this is weaving a dream, weaving for a better future, a better life,' Nazma says. 'With the skills I learned from the training and by the money I will make after selling the products, I can confidently say now that I can feed my kids better and send them to school again.'
The Women Affairs Department of UZP, in association with UZP Women Development Forum (WDF), organised the training following the recommendation made by Women Affairs Standing Committee of UZP. The committe had identified the training on Sataranji as an economic opportunity for creating self-employment and empower disadvantaged women.

Through four Community-based Organizations (CBOs), 30 women were drawn from four Union Parishads (UPs) of the UZP to take part in the 15-day training course that included skill training, material sourcing, marketing support and experience sharing visits. After completing the training, the UZP is also providing support to the women for 11 months by sourcing and providing raw materials and creating market/sales channels in Rangpur, Bogra and Dhaka.

Ms. Nuresh Kausher Jahan, Women Affairs Officer of Pirganj UZP, explains the ripple effect caused by the training, 'Our aim is not only to train the 30 women, but also others in the Upazila.'

'The women who have just received the training will train others in their community to spread the skills and knowledge which will subsequently help their livelihoods,' she adds.

The CBOs are also helping not only in mobilising the women for training, but also in marketing the products to local and national levels. They will soon organise a Sataranji fair in Rangpur to display the products produced by the women who have received the training.

'If we can produce high quality products, we can easily sell the Sataranjis to Bogra, Dhaka and even abroad. We, the CBOs, with the help of WDF, will play the catalytic role between the sellers and buyers,' says Roushan Ara Begum, President of Prajapara Bohumuky Nari Unnyan Samity, one of the CBOs working on Sataranji.

Ayesha Siddika, President of another CBO, Panea Dariddra Bimochan Mahila Samity (Paria Women’s Association Working for Poverty Alleviation), says, 'We have a dream to set up a Sataranji Palli (village) here in Pirganj. Such a community can be a platform of for self-employment for disadvantaged women.'

The project, under its Upazila Fiscal Facility (UFF) support, has already provided BDT 5.8 million (approximately US$ 74,360) to Pirganj Upazila Parishad in two phases in 2013. With the grants, the Upazila Parishad has taken a total of 13 schemes mainly targeted to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) at Upazila level. 
  
Expressing her gratitude to the UZGP’s contribution to help bring back happiness to her family, Nazma says, 'I will continue to work hard since I want to see smiles on the faces of my family members. It would not have been possible without the help of the UZGP.'  

The UZGP, during its first year in 2013, has already disbursed the first tranche of its fiscal grants amounting BDT 17.5 million to seven UZPs under seven pilot districts for implementing 89 pro-poor and MDG-focused schemes.