Bangladesh: Minding her own business

In tribal areas of Bangladesh, women generally follow a traditional way of life and it’s the men who go out to work or go into commerce. But increasing numbers of women are getting help from programmes supported by the International Labour Organization and setting up and running their own businesses, ILO TV now reports.

Date issued: 13 August 2004 | Size/duration: 00:02:38 (6.45 MB)

In tribal areas of Bangladesh, women generally follow a traditional way of life and it’s the men who go out to work or go into commerce. But increasing numbers of women are getting help from programmes supported by the International Labour Organization and setting up and running their own businesses, ILO TV now reports.

The Chittagong Hill tracts in Bangladesh, where work outside the home is usually men’s work. It’s a distinctively tribal area, with a traditional way of life.

In this hilly, isolated region, women shoulder the burden at home and often have less access than men to education and health services.

Shopkeepers are usually male. But times are changing, and more women are learning to set up shop for themselves.

Nirota Chakma started out running a small tea shop. In the beginning it was hard. But gradually she won respect from her customers.

Nirota Chakma

I faced some problems running the shop before, not anymore. The customers used to create trouble because I am a woman, especially after drinking a bit, but they don’t do it any more.

She got the opportunity to expand her business with the help of a loan supported by the International Labour Organization. The ILO campaigns against discrimination and for fundamental rights at work. In this region, only forty women are economically active for every one hundred men in the labour force. They can be discriminated against because they are women and, also because of their ethnic origin.

Nirota is taken seriously by her suppliers and by neighbouring shopkeepers in this poor, ethnically mixed region.

Jahar Lal Barua, Shopkeeper

She runs the shop very well. She maintains a good relationship with the tribal people and the Bengalis. She is becoming better off by running this shop. As a woman she doesn’t have any problem; she is succeeding.

Nirota has taken out three different loans, and as a result she has bought cows, sewing machines, a water pump and improved her shop. It means she can pay for her children’s education and lift herself out of poverty.

Nirota received training from the ILO women’s empowerment programme, in partnership with the Integrated Development Foundation.

Aongthui Chowdhury, Integrated Development Foundation

First we train them on how to manage a business, then, depending on what business they want to do, we train them on that, whether they want to do textiles or poultry farming or nurseries.

Nirota has been an inspiration to other women she knows and now she is not the only one setting up shop to make a better future for her family.