On International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, learn more about our rights-based work in Bangladesh.

Islamic Relief has been working to improve gender equality in Rangpur, in northern Bangladesh.

Around 900 women were trained in how to run their own business alongside learning more about human rights, including CEDAW – the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, which Bangladesh signed in 1984 – and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Bangladesh ratified in 1990.

Combined, they set out that health, equal opportunity, development and protection should be equally available to girls as boys, and women as men.

Programme officer Rubiya Hasin said: “The purpose of this training was to create a protective and responsive community so that women and children feel safe and get a gender-friendly environment for their development. It was designed to build their ability to protect themselves.”

Islamic Relief trained the women, particularly widowed mothers, who, as the only earners in their families, needed to improve their income. They were taught handicrafts, as well as the manufacture, organization and promotion of a business.

Trading success

Some of the women formed their own co-operative, Nawar – which means flower in Arabic – Women’s Cooperative Society. They recently had the chance to sell their goods at an event organized by funding organization Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation to mark its 25th anniversary.

The cooperative at the development fair.

The cooperative at the development fair.

Their stall, selling items from bed sheets to winter clothes, and baby outfits to canvas shopping bags, was among 125 from different organisations and groups of people. Rubiya Hasin added: “The products got an enormous response in the fair; everyone appreciated the quality of the products, which had good fabric, design, colour combination and hand stitching. They had lots of interest from customers and made lots of sales. This is helping the women make a greater success of their business, and is helping them grow in confidence in their skills as business owners.”

When the project finished, the women felt confident enough to take greater control over their handicrafts business, managing the whole process of production and manufacturing, marketing and sales. Their success has added to their overall empowerment. They now have their own income, as well as access to nutrition and more opportunities to keep their children in school.

Maksura Begum at a human rights training session.

Maksura Begum at a human rights training session.

Most Shilpi Begum, a cooperative member, said: “We had training on women’s rights, human rights and skills training, and now we contribute to the decision-making process in our family and the community.”

Maksura Begum, another member, added: “They provided us with frames, threads, needles… I bought a push cart for my husband with the money I earned and he is making money now. We have meals twice a day, we pay for our children’s education, we are happy.”

Sharif Ahmed, head of livelihood and community development for Islamic Relief in Bangladesh, said: “These women have strong and sustainable access to finance and their husbands are also benefiting from this. What’s more, we shared information on rights with the wider community, irrespective of gender and age, to involve everybody in the scheme.”