Valiant women contributing to culture and economy | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, August 21, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:26 AM, August 21, 2020

Valiant women contributing to culture and economy

Bunon is an online-based social business that aims to economically support women through the production of crochet handicrafts. Founded by architecture student Ribana Haque in 2014, the initiative has been empowering 256 underprivileged women (200 locals in Naogaon and 56 Bihari women in the Dhaka Geneva Camp in Mohammadpur), who weave crochet handicrafts for the platform.

Ribana started Bunon with only an investment of BDT 500 and a pair of crochet sticks without any concreate planning. She had to visit the Dhaka Geneva Camp to conduct a survey for academic purposes. This is when the struggles of the women from the Bihari community residing there, especially in terms of gaining economic stability, came to her knowledge. With Ribana's determination and relentless efforts from her team, Bunon gradually gained ground as a proper e-commerce platform on social media. It also helped the members to establish their own identities, in their respective circles.

As a social business focused on economically uplifting women, Bunon actively trains and employs them, making them financially stable, while lending a hand in the national economy. "It takes us two to five days to teach the basics of crochet arts to a girl. We have five trainers who are always available to our beginners," mentions Ribana when asked about their vocational training structure. "The trainers help them through this process, which is enough to start working. Then, we slowly introduce the design-based work to them."

Girls who gain expertise in the weaving technique eventually become trainers and help the novices. "I have been with Bunon from the beginning. After joining this organisation, I could support myself financially and even contribute to my family," shares Khaleda Binte Alam, a trainer at Bunon. "Besides, I enjoy working with others and learning new things. I hope to stay with this initiative for as long as I can."

Bunon, as an organisation, brought huge changes in the lifestyles of these women, allowing them to walk with their heads held high. "Before joining Bunon, I faced many obstacles with work and was struggling to provide proper education for my children," says Forida Begum, the lead worker at Bunon. "But now, they are studying and the other women in my family have started working too. We are no longer fully dependent on our family. Instead, we have become a support system for them."

Even as the world is grappling with the coronavirus pandemic, the members of Bunon are working from home and sending out handmade products through home delivery services. Working equipment with detailed briefing and raw materials are delivered to the workers' homes once a week, and collected by the end of the week. Ribana personally calls each of the workers from time to time, while the trainers ensure that they understand the designs and colour preferences, as per the orders' details.

Ribana aspires to reach out to a lot more women who want to be financially independent, but are struggling to find such opportunities. She dreams of opening an outlet in the city and extend her measures, to be able to employ at least 2,000 women. She had also started taking up online orders to ship abroad. However, those are on hold for the time being. "I believe that in the next 30 years, the women in Bangladesh will be economically empowered through their own skills," concludes Ribana.

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