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     Volume 2 Issue 13 | June 23 , 2007 |


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Cover Story

From Jhenidah
The Udbhaboni Nursery

Azibor Rahman

Khaleda Khanom a once poor house-wife is another great example of how women can make important contributions to the economy. Her success can be attributed only to her own intelligence and drive. Coming from a remote, underprivileged village, she has won a national award for creating and running her nursery, something that was necessitated after her husband became unemployed. She is now completely independent and on track.

Khaleda was born in Math Andulia, a village under Harinakundo Upazilla. She got married in 1988 to Monisur Rahman of Khondokar Para, a man who was unemployed at the time. Khaleda was a middle child, one of eleven brothers and sisters. She got married off as soon as her SSC exams were over. Apparently she had to get married early because her mother wanted Khaleda married while her mother was still alive.

She continued with her studies, passing her HSC examination in 1991. Although she wanted to, she couldn't go further due to lack of money. When she got married she was hoping for a happy married life, but this dream was shattered when she found out that her husband was very poor and unemployed.

After the birth of her first daughter Ratha, she often had to starve herself to feed her. All her attempts to make money were being thwarted but she did not totally give up hope. After the birth of her second child Sabbir, she got the idea to start a nursery. Her idea was simple- she would plant trees. She started her nursery with a shovel in her own hand. It began with a 5 chhatak piece of land with a mere Tk 1500 which she borrowed from her father, Golam Rahman Mia.

In the first year, she earned a profit of Tk 13,000. This was tremendously encouraging. In 1991, the following year, she made a seedbed in her nursery on 15 chhataks of land. Her profit soared through the roof. Her family was no longer struggling and everybody was applauding her enterprise. She named her nursery “Udbhaboni.”

“At first I was unsure, but the huge profit that followed was beyond anything I had expected."

“This encouraged me.” Khaleda said. She added that she built a nice flat on 6 chhatak land at Hamdah and furnished it as well.

She went on to expand her nursery. She included varieties of plants like mahogany, lichee, guava, hog plum, mango, black-berry, plum, jack-fruit, star apple, coconut tree and others. In 1993-94, she expanded an additional 10 bighas which earned her Tk. 6 lakh.

Next, from 1995 to 2003, she continued developing her nursery with 5 acres of land and a strong morale. Her livelihood is now completely dependent on her nursery. She underwent training on how to manage a nursery from an NGO, Jagorani Chakra, in 2003.

“This nursery has materialized due to my untiring labor and support from my mother Rahima Khatun.” Khaleda says. In 2004, she took 15 acres as a lease. But in a twist of fate, she was diagnosed with a number of different illnesses which made it very hard for her to work. Now she can't keep up with all the demands of the business. At the moment, her business is going slow, and she no longer sees the affluence she did only recently.

Meanwhile, two of her big customers owe her a lot of money, she claims. She claims they owe her taka 4 lakh and taka 5 lakh each.

Her success has charmed many people including officials and journalists who visit her operations at Boro Kamar Kundo and Bharua Para including the residential area in Jhenidah district. Ignoring possible social stigma, Khaleda conducts all work at the farm employing 6 persons. She pays them Tk 80 each per day.

Besides her work in the nursery, she has made contributions in the sports sector and politics. She has been appointed Joint Secretary of the National Women's Sports Organization. She has also occupied the post of Joint Secretary of the Jhenidah District Women's Awami League.

She encourages unemployed young people to look into this sector as the rewards are potentially very high. The nursery business will become even more attractive if there is more government support.

“When women come to me seeking advice on this profession it gives me much pleasure. I try my best to give them good advice,” Khaleda said.

While talking to her during a visit she said her business has slowed down. She does not have enough capital at the moment. Her illness has also seriously affected things. She has already undergone five different major surgeries, but still suffers, particularly from diabetes.

She is now trying to get the attention of the authorities to get back the money she claims other businessmen owe her. Her other main goal is to get a government loan for her nursery.



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