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Dhaka Tribune

AGAINST ALL ODDS

The inspiring tale of Ronju Begum becoming an entrepreneur

  • Helpless, poor women getting support 
  • Now labelled as ‘Pushtia Apa’ locally
Update : 31 Oct 2023, 06:49 PM

Ronju Begum is a grocer living in SM College Road area of Morrelganj Upazila in Bagerhat. She is a woman entrepreneur by profession. But her path to becoming an entrepreneur was not smooth at all. 

Although she had a dream of getting established after finishing her studies, her parents married her off at the age of 13 or 14. Even before she could understand family life, she became the mother of two daughters. After the second child was born, her husband abandoned her. 

Since then, her life struggle started. After a lot of ups and downs in life, she has now become a successful entrepreneur. Many people in the area have started following her.

Photo: Dhaka Tribune

This correspondent had a conversation with Ronju Begum at her shop in Morrelganj. At that time, while narrating the story of her struggle, she was brimming with emotions. She shared how hard it was after her husband abandoned her. She could not understand what to do. 

“I became helpless with my two children as my parents’ financial condition was not very good. Still, I moved to my father's house with two daughters. We joined a family already overburdened with five sisters, two brothers and my parents. A new chapter of life began. 

“I started supplying water to different tea shops in Morrelganj market and worked as a house help. It was very difficult to run the family with my earned money alone. So I had to husk rice at other people's houses at night too,” Ronju Begum recalled.

Picture: Dhaka Tribune

“At one point, my younger brother started a grocery store in the local market. Besides lending a hand to him there, I took the job of cooking at the DC office. With these earnings, the educational expenses of my brothers, sisters and two daughters along with family expenditure were managed. 

“Sometimes I used to cry alone late at night thinking about my destiny. But then I wiped my eyes off and made my mind not to stop. I realized that f I stop, everything will come to a standstill. The future of everyone will get jeopardized. 

“People around us used to say many things because I was a woman. But it had in my mind that society will neither feed me nor teach me.” 

Ronju Begum explained how she tried to save some money even though she was struggling financially for a long time.

Picture: Dhaka Tribune

“At one stage, I borrowed some money from a local cooperative organization and started my own shop near the market. 

“Even after managing this shop, I had to continue the cooking job of the DC office for three more years. In the meantime, I met a representative of a private organization named BoPInc. I got to know that the organization provides various training and advice to women to become entrepreneurs. Later, when I contacted them, they gave me further guidelines and training. After working hard in line with their guidelines, I am now an established woman entrepreneur in the area. Now my business is also doing well. I am known as Pushti Apa.”

Shilpi Joardar is another woman entrepreneur from Ruprampur of Thukra Union under Dumuria Upazila of Khulna. After marriage, instead of depending on her husband's income, she opted for running a grocery store herself as another source of income. She had to hear many bad things from family, neighbors and society. But she did not stop.

Picture: Dhaka Tribune 

Today, she has turned into an emblem of trust for the family. Besides business, she has developed a women's welfare association in the area. From there, local women are given loans to become entrepreneurs.

Just like Shilpi, there are such inspiring stories of at least 200 women hailing from the remote areas of Khulna. Such reality has recently come to the fore after talking to rural women businessmen and small entrepreneurs based in Narail's Kalia, Bagerhat's Morrerganj and Khulna's Dumuria.

Shilpi said that even though she had a dream of establishing herself, she got married when she was a student of class 10. But she did not let her dreams die. 

Five years ago, she started the shop with a capital of Tk10,000 only. Later she also trained other women in the area after receiving sewing related training from BoPInc. Also, the BoPInc representative decorated her shop in a lucrative way that caught everyone’s attention. These assistances have been instrumental in advancing her business.

Sharmin Kabir from Chairman Bazar area of Morrelganj said her husband got paralyzed in a road accident in 2007, after five years of marriage. After that, a new chapter of life began. With a lot of difficulty, she collected some money and opened a small shop. 

“At the beginning of the business, I did not have enough confidence in my decisions. I was in a dilemma about which products to bring to the store, which ones would be more profitable and which ones are in demand. This time, BoPInc came with guidance just like a close friend. 

“From one of their representatives, I got a few mini packets of Dano milk for free, which made the wheels of my shop rolling. With it, my journey in the business world also started. In the beginning, many people raised their eyebrows and taunted me. But now everyone respects me and everyone in the area calls me ‘Pusthi Apa’.” 

Rabeya Khatun from Jamrildanga area of Jalia Upazila in Narail said it was not easy for girls to become shopkeepers. “Now the people of Jamirdanga, Peroli, Kadamtola, Khorlia, Shitalbari know me as ‘Pusthi Apa’. This has been possible due to proper training in business management and the guidance that I have received.”

Rabeya Khatun’s husband Mizanur Rahman said: “Although there are several shops half a kilometer away, these shops do not have everything necessary. Rabeya’s shop has it all, because she has a good understanding of the necessities of the people of this area. As a result, people visit her shop.”

When contacted, Rafayet Alam, impact manager of BoPInc, said: “We are currently working with 200 women entrepreneurs in the remote areas of Khulna, especially those who have an indomitable passion for entrepreneurship.

“We provide them with various trainings free of cost to run the business. Also, various instructions are given to connect with the distribution network of established companies from these remote areas and ensure supply of products which are in demand at the local level. Besides, the whole process of their efforts is also supervised.”

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