Handmade, reusable shopping bags are all the rage from the latest fashion statement to a marker of conscientious consumerism.
By using one, you may think you’re saving the planet (from the single-use plastics that most bags tend to be). In Satkhira, you may be saving some lives as well.More than a hundred disadvantaged rural women in the district, through the ‘Prerona Cooperative Samity’ in Kaliganj upazila, have been earning and supporting their families by stitching these bags.
Most notably, they are allowed to work from home, and that is what allows them to take advantage of the opportunity.
Rehana Parveen, one such artisan, said, “I cannot move normally due to an injury after a road accident six years ago. My husband left me alone with my disability three years back. ‘Prerona’ has given me hope of living in dignity again.”
School-going Mohima Parveen, another member of the cooperative said, “My parents weren’t able to bear my educational expenses. But now, I am working with Prerona and earning money to pay for my own educational expenses as well as helping my parents.”
Nasima Khatun another artisan of Prerona said, “My husband couldn’t afford the family’s expenses alone. Now I am also earning by making the shopping bags and that makes the difference for us to avoid extreme poverty.”
Manjuar Rahman of Rahimpur, a neighbouring union, said he was there to buy bag-making raw materials, for the women in his family who were busy stitching bags back home!Shampa Goshwami, a school teacher and director of Prerona, said the women make the bags after getting order from shops in Satkhira district.
Prerona has been running the program under which they train the women to make bags since 2015. It was aimed at creating local employment opportunities, she added.
If the government, or an NGO, or some other donor would support them, Shwampa believes they have every potential for scaling up successfully.
She said that most of the local shops purchase Preronas shopping bags. Already they sell between 1.5 to 2 lakh bags every month.
Depending on their design, each of their handmade bags cost between Tk 2.8 to Tk 13.
Prerona already supplies the bags to more than 30 business establishments in their area, including Lake View, Vaggokul, Al-Baraka, Prio Gopal, Mawa Chinese, Nusrat Fashion, Jayhun, Adi Ghosh, and Sagor Sweets, Shwampa added.
Kaliganj upazila Women’s Affairs Officer Sharmin Akhter said, “Prerona is a voluntary women-led women’s development organization. Its work has been helping underprivileged women improve their lot in life and to save the planet!”