Bringing unsung heroes of Bengal the limelight they often don’t enjoy, “Friendship Colours of the Chars” launched its very first retail outlet in Banani on September 5, 2019 (Thursday). The store serves rural women from the remotest parts of Bangladesh to display a range of handmade items.
Friendship Colours of the Chars is a concern of the non-governmental organisation, Friendship. It works in the most inaccessible islands and the coastal belt of Bangladesh to empower people through sustainable approaches. One such initiative was giving women in chars, or remote riverine islands, access to free training programmes to learn skills like weaving and crafts. The retail outlet is thus a celebration of what marginalised women in chars can do when simply given the opportunity. But what stirred such an initiative in the first place?
“I don’t believe in development which does not bring identity and dignity. And that is why Friendship is ingrained with these two core values. The women I see in remote areas are subdued just because of a lack of education. That is why we began with adult education. Next, they needed income generation. That lead to a decade in training and development,” shares Runa Khan, founder and executive director of Friendship.
“Bangladesh is equipped with such strong women who can bring forth good work and aid in development,” she added.
What culminated as a result of Runa Khan’s relentless efforts is the fashion outlet of Friendship Colours of the Chars. Here, you will find every rack speaking of the artisanal skill of the marginalised women. Handloom fabric, jamdani saris, and indo-western outfits will stir our emotional pull for Bengal’s timeless culture. The range of scarves is sure to demand a closer inspection. Hung pieces include interesting sets of ethnic jewellery, whether they are earrings, bracelets or beaded ornaments. The books and showpieces of boats, horses etc. will then steal your attention. And, if you still manage to not give in, the story each product has to tell will surely have you captivated.
“What makes the truest difference is how our products are made. Only traditional techniques of weaving (handlooms), dyeing, printing and embroidery are used. Materials used are pure cotton and silk. Even the colours are 100% natural,” ensures Nazra Mahjabeen Sabet, Assistant Director, Nodi Ltd, an enterprise of Friendship.
The clothing store was inaugurated by BGMEA President, Dr. Rubana Huq who ensured the trade organisation’s utmost support for Friendship Colours of the Chars. Moreover, chief guest, Mia Seppo, Resident Coordinator, United Nations, also stood in solidarity with the initiative, saying, “The poor cannot afford poor solutions.”
“With the brand, come the people. And, so, it’s these marginalised communities that I want to be recognised worldwide. I want people to see that just because they are poor and uneducated, it doesn’t mean that they cannot produce something coveted by international markets,” shares Runa Khan.