Saiful, a student of Shahjalal University of Science and Technology studying Social Science got a chance to spend a month in tea gardens as an engagement with a research work run by one of his professors in Sylhet, the largest hub of tea production in Bangladesh. He observed that the employees working in tea gardens earn less than 1 USD and only one member from family can get a job in tea garden average 7 people depend on that only employed person. Saiful felt an urge to do something for these communities. He was thinking of creating an opportunity for them to get alternative livelihood. By this time he attended an awareness session organised by the British Council. It was about a competition on Social Enterprise named Innovate, Incubate & Grow. The competition invited young people in Bangladesh to share how to solve any existing community problem (social or environmental) through a business model. After the session Saiful believed that he can solve the problem of tea garden worker by taking part in this competition. Then he formed a group with two of his friends which was a criterion of the competition. As he was from Social Science background, he identified one of his friends from business background to enhance strength of his team.
These three young people finally took part in the competition as a team called ‘Shonjibon’ which means bringing back to life. Their objective was enabling income opportunities for young people living in tea garden area of Sylhet and providing them opportunity to start a new life by shedding frustration of unemployment. After receiving two consecutive capacity building training in boot camp and business planning workshop the team was confident to have the skills of a social entrepreneur and they started their ground work.
They planned to train unemployed young people who are above 18 years old to make recycled paper bags. They analysed market of raw material and market of finished products and started working depending on data they gathered. They selected the areas for where they wanted to pick the participants for training. But it was quite challenging to communicate with the people living in tea garden area as the local community leaders do not allow everyone to get access to their community. Team ‘Shonjibon’ convinced the local leaders and got access to communicate with the participants as well as a place in the local club to use for meetings. Initially they arranged training for 12 people who are now working to make dream of ‘Shonjibon’ true. They have ensured safe working environment, fair wage with no discrimination in terms of age, sex and social background and made sure no environmental harm was caused while managing garbage.
Their plan was to reinvest major portion of profit to make the social enterprise sustainable and create education opportunities for the tea garden workers and their family members through their partners’ network.
Products produced in the first lot have been already sold and preparation for second batch of production is going on. Team ‘Shonjibon’ is now planning to introduce producing cloth bags which are more profitable and they are working to manage fund for starting that. ‘Shonjibon’ has brought light of new hope in few young peoples’ life which they wish to be spread to thousand’s life.