A long cherished dream of Haricha Begum came true when the Jute Works provided her job at home. "My dream came true. My sorrows have all gone and my hope has been fulfilled,” said Haricha Begum, who has become a self-reliant woman through producing handicrafts. She looked very calm and quiet while she was talking about her dreams.
"Many of us are very poor. But nobody is to blame for that. We can change our lives through income generating works,” she said sitting at the courtyard of her house. Haricha Begum, 38, has involved herself in producing different types of handicrafts for over one decade. Her experience is that of a long way struggle in life.Haricha Begum got married when she was 12 years old. Her husband was a landless day labourer. He used to till and sow the land of others. It was very difficult for him to maintain family expenses. Haricha Begum had no source of income for her own and spent her time doing housework. Her mother-in-law was however producing jute handicraft at home at that time. She tried to help her mother-in-law from the beginning. But Haricha was also looking for an opportunity to earn some money herself for the family.
“My mother-in-law had long experience producing handicrafts. She was indeed a skilled handicraft producer. She used to sell handicrafts in the local market. She trained me how to produce traditional household products. Now she became very old and could not produce handicrafts any longer. But I am still producing handicrafts and earning money every month” said Haricha.
She became involved in producing CORR-the Jute Works' products in 1980, through the Garalia Khudra Pushpa Mahila Samity. This Cooperative group was formed in 1973 and was producing different types of handicrafts for CORR-JW through Jagorani Handicraft Centre. But in 1980 the Garalia Khudra Pushpa Mahila Samity became a direct producer group of CORR-JW. Haricha Begum said emphatically that the cooperative group gives the rural women strength to work together and builds up their co-existence in the society. It creates awareness and solves different kinds of social problems. It has been observed that the women have now a powerful common voice to express their opinion and highlight their situation as underprivileged in the society. What has been observed in them is ‘change’, they are now standing up to fight against the social injustice and unfairness. Though the women come from different cultural/religious backgrounds, they involve themselves in group work in order to gain equal rights and for their common interests.
Haricha Begum has two sons and one daughter. As a poverty stricken woman she said, “I could not send my eldest son to school after eighth grade. It was absolutely need get a job for him to earn money. Recently he got married. He pulls rickshaw at Kaligonj and earns about 50 to 100 taka per day. He contributes a part towards our family expenses.” Her younger son and daughter both are studying in Class Seven. She does not want to involve them in work before the completion of their education. They go to school regularly and are serious about their studies. She sees a bright future for them.
When Haricha Begum first came to her husband’s house, he had a small hut only. Her mother -in- law had a small piece of land where her husband built a small hut. When her eldest son got married and other two children had grown up, it was needed for the extension of the house. But they had no ability to purchase land to build. Therefore, they started to save money every month and finally were able to buy additional land beside their house. Recently she built a new tin shed house with four rooms. Now she can provide enough rooms for her family members. Besides this, Haricha Begum has bought two cows through the earning derived from producing handicrafts.
CORR-JW raised environmental awareness among the producers through environmental campaign, the tree plantation program especially become environmental movement among the villagers. Every year CORR-JW arranges for saplings to be distributed. The producers of Garalia Khudra Pushpa Mohila Samity also received 480 saplings from the CORR-JW. Haricha Begum has planted two timber and two fruit saplings in front of her house. These are now growing.
CORR-The Jute Works believes that it is important to strengthen women's producer group and to make them economically viable. As such case studies, like Haricha Begum’s reflects the work of organizing women in groups. Group members select a president and secretary for managerial work of the group. They arrange group meeting every month. Usually members try to attend the meeting and to share about their problems. They discuss the quality of orders and development of products. They then distribute their work among the members. The leaders of the group bring orders from CORR-JW and distribute them among the 30 members of group. Sometimes they distribute the orders in such a way that an individual woman in a crisis is able to redeem herself.
Through the involvement in a producer group, most of the members learn how to write and sign their names. The group decides that members should learn to write their own name. Women are inspired to send their children to school. The education of a child has become a movement at the producers’ level recently.