A story from Satkhira
Anima’s path to success as a sweet packet businesswoman was a struggle. In 2002, she got married and became a housewife. Her husband sold garments in a store, tutored students, and did agricultural work but became sick and could not continue doing everything that he was doing. He had a problem with a vein in his leg, making it difficult for him to walk properly. To make things easier, he opened his own store but he was not able to make ends meet still. The consequence was that Anima was only able to eat two times a day while she ensured that her husband and daughter ate three times. Anima started doing tailoring work, learned how to make and sell stoves, and taught elderly people basic skills to diversify her income sources. She was standing on her own two feet, supporting her sick husband and daughter through her education.
However, in 2009, Anima had to start all over again. Cyclone Aila washed away everything, including all of her sewing materials and orders. In 2010, she joined RECALL and did two trainings; one on leadership and the other on rice cultivation. She started cultivating rice and vegetables, although they were not enough to sell. In 2011, she worked as a day labourer and learned how to make sweet packets during a day-long training with Practical Action. She received Tk10,000 as a starter grant for her sweet packet business, but she did not get many orders despite her efforts to advertise. Anima was trying her best, exploring multiple avenues to find something profitable and sustainable for her family.
In 2016, Anima joined the PROTIC project and diversified her income sources further. Through the apps on her smartphone and training from PROTIC, she learned adaptation techniques for growing rice and vegetables and farming fish, increasing her production and income. She made vegetable towers that thrived in the otherwise saline soil and regulated the pH of her pond so that her fish would not die from lack of oxygen. Having the smartphone allowed her to place ads on Facebook for her sweet packet business, which increased her orders through phone calls and Facebook messenger. With greater exposure, she started training community members on how to make sweet packets for profit as well. Her smartphone gave her a second chance to do change her life around l.
From Anima, we learned that it is possible to flourish in the face of adversity. Anima lost everything during Aila, but she was able to support her husband through his illness and afford her daughter’s education expenses. We learned that technology was what she needed to reach her full potential, especially for her sweet packet business.
Tania Ahmed and Mity Mahmuda are research officers at ICCCAD