Dhaka business flounders for lack of new designsWeavers face unemployment as their traditional products no longer sell.
Twelve years ago, Chija BK of Damja went into business weaving Dhaka cloth after receiving three months' training and earned a sizeable income.
All was well until Dhaka fabrics in new designs entered the market, which resulted in fewer buyers for her production as she could not keep up with the changing trends. BK only knows how to weave plain Dhaka cloth, and has no knowledge about creating designs, adding colour and trying out new models.
She learned the basic skills of making Dhaka from a non-governmental organisation. Now her loom is broken and her skills have become outdated. She has been forced to start looking for a job.
BK says the business will not produce a profit unless training is provided to make different attractive designs and new technology is introduced. “I need new designs and technology to be competitive,” she said. Not being able to find an alternative source of income, she has been facing financial problems.
Another Dhaka weaver Anita BK also landed in a similar situation. Different governmental and non-governmental organisations provided training for a very short period of time and raised their hopes of becoming an entrepreneur, she said. They did not provide any skills, capital or equipment to start a business.
Not being able to make enough money with the training she had received, she sent her husband to work abroad to ensure financial security.
Local youths received training with the help of the micro entrepreneurs development programme. Later, the micro-entrepreneurship programme to eliminate poverty conducted the training programme.
But the training programme has been shut down for three years. The entrepreneurs found themselves jobless after local leaders were not able to invest in the projects started by the organisation. Lack of investment in training, production and marketing has hit the entrepreneurs, said Sukumaya BK. “We have not been able to receive training to weave fabrics in the latest designs. We were very hopeful at first, but now we are not able to produce any cloth,” she said.
The traditional method is only good to make shawls used in the villages. Whenever the loom breaks down, there is no technician to fix it. There is no money for repairs and there is no market for local products. Sajha Subidha Kendra, which was built four years ago for weaving Dhaka cloth, lies in ruins.
All the programmes launched in the district to develop cottage industries such as furniture, herbs, livestock rearing and agriculture have stalled. More than 800 entrepreneurs became unemployed after the programme was shut down.
More than 1,500 entrepreneurs received grants to start cottage industries like making allo thread, Dhaka cloth, nettle powder and herbal soap, boutique, beekeeping and vegetable farming, according to the statistics of the district office of the Department of Small and Cottage Industries.
Goma Rijal, an official at the district office, said the programme would be revived later this year. The government plans to raise the status of entrepreneurs, search for new ones and work to find markets.