Sorbojoya, a project under Watermark LiveStock Management Ltd. is working to create entrepreneurial traits and qualities among the rural women of Sadullapur Upazila, in the district of Gaibandha. This project started as the brainchild of Mr. Jakaria Mohammad Palash, Managing Director of Watermark BD, who hails from the place himself. He said that his aim is to ensure that the women of this area become self-sufficient and empowered. With that vision, Sorbojoya started its journey on January, 2018.
The main inspiration for the project came from the rural women, who spend most of their time doing house work while their male counterparts work in the fields. Mr. Jakaria realised that these women are equally capable of earning livelihood but they lack the proper know-how and the financial capabilities.
Watermark LiveStock Management Ltd. started Sorbojoya by selecting 50 women titled “Sorbojoya”. They are provided with 4 cows each and Watermark set up the primary structure for rearing these cows, along with the provision of 10 KG of basic food materials for cattle. They are allowed to return the cost of the cattle in 12 installments over a period of 6 years without any interest. One major issue is the lack of proper knowledge regarding cattle farming. Watermark provides technical training to these women and teaches them about the basics of cattle rearing with the help of their own livestock officers. Emphasis is given to rearing cattle in a moral and ethical way without using unfair means. Arrangement for treatment is made by Watermark as livestock officers make regular visits every 15 days, for lack of proper treatment can lead to losses for the ‘Sorbojoyas’.
The project focuses on bringing these women within the financial inclusion. While Watermark provides them with the cattle, they also open a bank account for them and all further transactions take place through these bank accounts to habituate them to the system. Apart from the technical training, the ‘Shorbojoyas’ are also taught about the legal issues. They are taught about trade license and the tax system. Besides, Watermark provides insurance for their cattle.
Watermark spends 30% of their profit for ‘Education of Women’s Health and Children’s Education’ scholarship under their CSR department. Watermark creates awareness about women’s health and hygiene issues and provides education regarding these matters. Scholarship for the children of Sorbojoyas is provided after they complete education up to a certain level, so that they can pursue higher education.
WaterMark’s purpose is to create awareness about rural sustainable development where all the stakeholders are interconnected to each other. Mr. Jakaria mentioned that the project creates an economical circle in the area. Employment opportunities are created as people are hired for building the infrastructure for rearing cattle, field officers are hired from the area for regular monitoring purposes, food for cattle is sourced from local suppliers, the meat or milk is sold at the local markets at appropriate prices, etc. So, it creates a chain of sustainability in that particular area. So, the project helps not just the Sorbojoyas but also affects the overall economic development of that region.
When asked about future endeavours of Watermark, Mr. Jakaria said that they are planning to create a wider channel for the ‘Sorbojoyas’ so that the end market stretches to Dhaka where they will bring the cattle for sale this Qurbani Eid and later this year establish butcher shops starting from Dhanmondi. They also have a goal of increasing the number of women from 50 to 500 in the next five years. They also plan on promoting some of the more capable women to livestock officers so that they can further help empower other women in the area.
This endeavor by Watermark BD is empowering women in the rural areas by creating entrepreneurs and making them self-sufficient by providing them the initial support and education which is creating a chain reaction and eventually contributing to the overall development of Sadullapur Upazila. The Project Sorbojoya is not just creating able women entrepreneurs who can overcome anything and everything, but is also creating sustainable rural development.
Nabila Hossain is senior at Institute of Business Administration, University of Dhaka. Reach her at email@example.com.