Carpet-making brings hope to disabled women in Mymensingh
Handloom items made by disabled women in Mymensingh are turning out to be hot properties among the discerning customers at home and abroad.
Wall mats, carpets and floor mats produced at a carpet workshop in the district sell at plush stores in Dhaka and are exported to the US, the UK, France, Australia, Luxembourg, Thailand and Japan.
The prices of wall mats range from Tk 3,000 to Tk 10,000, while those of carpets from Tk 2,000 to Tk 20,000, and floor mats from Tk 1,000 to Tk 15,000.
The workshop is a project of the Protibandhi Community Centre, a platform for the disabled.
“Many tourists come to visit the workshop and buy items off us straight,” said the workshop's supervisor Shefali Akhtar, also a disabled woman.
The Japanese and American visitors are particularly keen on the wares, she said.
Brother Eric and Akhtar are credited for the eye-catching designs that the workshop churns out on a regular basis, while the materials, all of the highest of quality, are sourced from Dhaka's New Market and Sadarghat.
The workshop was started in 1997 by the women's club of Protibandhi Community Centre, with five disabled workers.
Currently, the number of workers at the workshop is 13, and around 15 to 20 items worth around Tk 2 lakh are produced at the workshop a month.
The centre has so far trained 200-odd disabled women -- and all of them can now provide for themselves financially and lead a respectable life.
The workers are paid on a production basis and they earn, on average, Tk 2,000 to Tk 2,500 per month.
The wheelchair bound Napali, 22, said she has been at the workshop for five years and have been able to support her family with her income. She hails from Durgapur of Netrokona.
Babli Akhtar, 20, another disabled from Banshbari Colony of Mymensingh, said: “The workshop has managed jobs for many disabled women, but this facility should be extended to others as well.”
“Since the items are exported, the workers deserve to be paid better salaries, which is much needed to run their families,” said Shima Akhtar, 21.
“In many cases, due to a lack of customers we have to wait for months to sell our products. Common people cannot buy the costly items produced at the workshop,” said Rajon Das, a coordinator of the Centre.
The workshop fulfilled a huge order from Luxembourg three months ago, and it looks like they were impressed as they placed another significant order to be delivered in November, said Rajon.
“We got an order for Tk 1 crore from an Australian buyer last year -- but we could not accept it due to funding and manpower constraints,” he said, adding that the workshop is run by the income it generates.
There are 11 handlooms at the workshop now, but, according to Rajon, more can be accommodated to create jobs for the disabled.
“If the work area can be increased with financial and technical support from the government, it will be able to expand the business prospects,” he said.
“There are more than 3,000 disabled people in the district. The government should take steps to create jobs for this helpless group,” said Rajon.