Mokseda has become a symbol of women’s struggle for success
Mokseda Begum, owner of a garment shop in Thakurgaon, has become a model for the country’s grassroots women entrepreneurs.
At the heart of the district town’s Howlader Market, the shop named ‘Ononna’ is her life’s work. She has endured an arduous journey to reach this stage.
Mokseda was a teenage bride, and after 10 years of marriage she lost her husband. She became the sole responsible for her son and daughter. Mokseda started working at an NGO but her nominal salary was insufficient to cover her expenses.
Mokseda began to dream that one day she would run a business. However, she lacked both capital and a technical education to do so. After six-months of sewing training, she took out a loan of Tk50,000, from the Department of Youth Development, to train 10 women in her area.
Mokseda founded a small sewing factory named Ononna Hostoshilpa, in 2000, with meager capital and manpower. Initially they started making: nokshi kantha, pillow cushions, women’s bags, bed sheets, hats, mobile phone bags, and other products for different handicrafts fairs in Dhaka.
However, it was not smooth sailing for Mokseda. As she wipes her tears and continues her story. “Society is not keen on the idea of a woman running a business—especially, in a village.”
She received no help from her family and her husband had not left her any assets at the time of his death. Earning a livelihood was a huge obstacle.
“Currently 200 women are working for this project. Now, we supply products as a wholesaler to different showrooms in Dhaka—as well as fairs. Apart from this, my products are sold to Bangladesh Border Guard (BGB) or in army shops. Additionally, we have a showroom in Thakurgaon town.”
As demand rises for Ononna products, she seeks to transform the cottage-industry business and expand it on a large scale.
Mokseda Begum thinks that the biggest barrier to the marginalization of women in Bangladesh is a lack of money and proper guidance.
She recommends that women take loans from government organizations, rather than private organizations, to benefit from low interest rates.
Mokseda has bagged a number of accolades over the years in recognition of her hard work.
In 2011, she received a national award in handicrafts from the prime minister and in 2013, the Association of Grassroots Women Entrepreneurs gave her the Best Grassroots Woman Entrepreneur award.
Apart from this, Mokseda received the Joyeeta award from her district.
She changed her position but also dreamt of changing the lives of other helpless women.
“I have struggled to reach this position and will continue the struggle the rest of my life.”
Currently her son Moksedul Islam is looking after her shop.
Thakurgaon-Panchagarh Reserved Women's Constituency MP Selina Jahan Lita and former sadar upazila vice chairman Tahmina Molla said that Mokseda has become a symbol of women's struggle for success.