Benu Ara supervising one of her workers at the factory

Benu Ara, owner of a handicraft shop and a small factory, has become an inspiration for Jashore’s grassroots women entrepreneurs. Located at the heart of the municipal town, the shop named ‘Ahona Fashion’ is her entire life’s work. “I have been working in the handicraft sector for more than 25 years. I supply products like saree, salwar-kameez, nokshi kantha, bed sheets, fabric pieces, and bags to different showrooms in Dhaka – as well as in local and national fairs,” says Benu.

While sharing her experience, Benu mentioned she has been working with different stitch motifs, particularly the Jashore stitch – a traditional hand-stitch pattern. “The specialty of the Jashore stitch lies in its unique pattern. As most of the artisans in Jashore work with the same pattern and motif, the buyers are losing interest in this. They want more innovation in the stitch pattern,” she added.

At this point, Benu Ara came to know about PRABRIDDHI’s initiative. The project has been supporting the handicraft sector of Jashore since 2021 with initiatives like capacity development of handicraft entrepreneurs and trainers 

in design innovation and product development with a specific focus on the unique Jashore Stitch. As part of the capacity-building efforts, PRABRIDDHI organised a 12-day long Co-creation workshop in 2022 facilitated by one of the prominent fashion designers of Bangladesh. A total of 30 renowned entrepreneurs of the area, including Benu Ara, participated in the training that solely focused on innovative designs and color-matching techniques.

The project also arranged another round of the Training of Trainers (ToT) Program with the same group of participants in 2023 to transform them in to Master Trainers, so that they can train the artisan at the grassroots level. During the reporting period, 30 entrepreneurs successfully trained a total of 3,000 artisans. The innovative content of this training has also inspired other local organisations to facilitate similar training courses on advanced product design, color-matching, etc. The project also assisted in developing a manual combining thestitch techniques for the artisans.

 “These trainings have helped me a lot in terms of coming up with new designs with matching color combinations within the Jashore stitch pattern. I have developed a new design with refined color combinations based on the fabric. This new design got a huge response from the buyers. I have supplied around 500 yards of fabric in and outside of Jashore in 2023. It costs me around BDT 400 to design the piece of fabric and each yard is sold at BDT 600,” said Benu.

With this new design, Benu Ara enjoyed an additional income of BDT 1,66,667 or CHF 1,389 in 2023. All the 30 training recipients, including Benu Ara, have enjoyed an additional income of BDT 5,000,000 or CHF 41,666 through applying new stitching techniques in 2023.

                             Capacity building training for the Jashore Stitch artisans

Additionally, a cross-pollination workshop for the handicrafts sector was organised by PRABRIDDHI to foster coordination and collaboration with local non-profit organisations. The main objective of this workshop was to create synergy and sustainable implementation of their initiatives. Efforts are in place to enlist the manual under the National Skill Development Authority (NSDA) for wider circulation. This will greatly benefit the individuals who are interested in enhancing their skills in stitching and entrepreneurship.

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