Women entrepreneurs pushing forward economic growth in Pabna
Keya Islam, who lives in Radhanagar village under Pabna sadar upazila, had started her hand embroidery business about a decade ago in order to help provide for her family.
Now, hundreds of people in the area are engaged in making clothes for her brand, called "Sara Butik and Fashion", either from their own homes or Islam's household factory.
Islam currently sells her products, which include Karchupi apparels, bed cushions and covers, through the two retail outlets she owns in Pabna town, earning her up to Tk 60,000 each month.
"I was trained in hand embroidery, so I started working in between chores at home to assist my family," Islam said.
"Within a few years, I had to expand operations by engaging more women due to the increasing demand for such clothes," she added.
Like her, numerous entrepreneurs have set up small-scale commercial operations in Pabna, playing a vital role in the district's gradual economic growth.
Nazira Parvin, founder of Nazirpur Mohila Unnayan Shangshtha, runs separate outlets for handicraft products made of bamboo, cane and wood that are produced at the household level in Nazirpur village.
Local women trained in making various household products from these items, such cloches and a traditional device used for breaking paddy called dheki, supply the business with its wares.
"We supply the necessary elements to manufacture these products at home, earning them between Tk 300 to Tk 400 per day," she said.
Around 200 women in the village are now helping to bring solvency to their families by engaging in this work, which is also playing a vital role in the region's socioeconomic activities, Parvin added.
Other than manufacturing products like Islam and Parvin, many women in the district are earning well from other professions as well.
For example, Irani Sultana Rima, another resident of Pabna sadar upazila, had no way to survive with her two children until she started to make a living by cooking at home.
She now supplies her food to different areas of the district headquarter.
"I cook various local dishes for orders placed via my official Facebook page or direct calls," said Rima, who earns a minimum of Tk 1,000 per day from her profession.
"Denying social criticism following my divorce, I have maintained my family well and am now happy," she added.
On the other hand, Trina Kundu, the wife of a government employee from the same upazila, may not be suffering financially, but still became an entrepreneur as a hobby.
"I love cakes and pastries, so I learned how to make them on my own," Kundu said.
She initially made baked goods only for her near and dear ones but as word spread, she started getting orders from different corners.
"Now this is my household business," she added.
There are more than 20,000 small entrepreneurs in the district, a large portion of which are household based, that are playing vital role in economic development, according to Md Rafikul Islam, manager of the Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC) office in Pabna.
However, these small entrepreneurs still face multifaceted challenges, such as poor access to finance and marketing.
But with the gradual success of their commercial activities, the BSCIC has come forward to gear up small entrepreneurs.
Besides, the organisation also organises fairs for displaying their products.
"We have already disbursed Tk 400 core as loans among 1,500 entrepreneurs in the last few years," said Rafikul, adding that the BSCIC gives training to those who have an interest to become an entrepreneur.
However, he went on to say that they are often unable to reach many potential entrepreneurs due to the lack of proper surveys.