The tupis (prayer caps) are later exported to the Middle East
Casual conversations among women go on in a mango orchard as they sit together and sew and weave pieces of white cloth that will be turned into tupis (prayer caps) later.
Such a sight, which might have been unusual in other parts of the country, is now common in Khosalpur, Kunjaban, Khajur, Ranail, Valain, and 30 other villages in Mahadebpur upazila of Naogaon where women have become self-reliant sewing and weaving prayer caps
This distinct profession has helped the women of the district to become financially sound, as the prayer caps are later exported to the Middle East, fetching a huge amount of foreign currency.
Speaking to several such weavers and traders, it was found that at least 15,000 women are currently involved in the production of prayer caps, which are produced on the basis of their foreign clients' requirements with relevant threads and designs.
Prices of the caps range from as low as Tk20-25 to expensive ones such as Tk600-700. A woman weaver usually earns Tk3,000-4,000 a month making the prayer caps.
Rabeya Khatun, a weaver from Khosalpur village, said she was in great financial crisis since her marriage 15 years back. After coming to Mahadebpur upazila 10 years ago, she was motivated by a neighbour to take up prayer cap weaving, and she never looked back after that.
Years of hard work have led her to acquire a house on 300 decimals of land.
Shamima Akhter, another weaver from Ranail village, said poverty in the family had led her to this trade five years ago. Now, thanks to her new fortune, she is able to rear domestic animals such as cows and goats, as well being able to send all her children to school.
Shamima's daughter Arifa Khatun earns as much as Tk2,000-3,000 per month by assisting her mother, which enables Arifa to purchase school books and other necessities.
Mazharul Islam, a retail prayer cap trader in Mahadebpur, said although the caps would be weaved based on local designs previously, in the last 10 years foreign designs are being used as well.
He added that these prayer caps are later exported to different countries, including Pakistan, Saudi Arab, Malaysia, Kuwait and Bahrain.
These caps are also sent to Dhaka's Chawkbazar and Baitul Mukarram markets.
Zillur Rahman, another trader, said although these caps are in demand throughout the year, the demand increases during the month of Ramadan and right before the two Eids.
Mobarak Hossain, district Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO), said the women weavers in the district have set a bright example for other women in the country.
The local administration provides help to the weavers so they can acquire fair prices for their caps and do not face any harassment in any way.