Stories of Change

Kemoni Shadipara - supporting the future
Kemoni Shadipara

Kemoni Shadipara - supporting the future

In 2008 the Trade Aid education tour group visited Bangladesh and talked to a woman named Kemoni Shadipara. Kemoni is a widow. Her husband passed away four years ago and she is now bringing up four children on her own. Kemoni has been working with Corr – The Jute Works (CJW) for twenty years and now also works in the fields to look after their land. Her daughter is at university doing a masters degree and her three sons are at college and high school and the youngest is in class seven. She also looks after her mother-in-law.

For Kemoni, educating all her children passed primary school has been made possible by the income that she earns from sewing jute material into bags for sale in fair trade markets around the world. Jute is an abundant and natural resource in Bangladesh and a great eco-alternative to plastic bags. For this work, all she requires is a sewing machine.

In addition to the income earned from the bags, Kemoni and her group have access to interest-free loans from Corr. The loans are taken out by the group and must be repaid in full after three years. Only when the full amount is repaid, can the group take another loan for which individual members apply. Up to the current time, the amount has always been paid back in full and on time with the small loans being put to innovative use by the group members.

Kemoni has taken four loans. The first was 500 Taka (NZ$10) for a pig and a goat. She then sold the pig for nearly five times that amount, at 2300 Taka, and spent this on her children’s education. She also took out three subsequent loans to buy land. On this land she has planted trees that CJW also provide. All members receive saplings to plant on their land, both timber and fruit trees which are part of Corr’s environmental policy and their wish to see 35% of Bangladesh covered in trees. Each year 20,000–40,000 trees are dispersed across artisan groups.

Kemoni and her fellow group members still face discrimination in Bangladesh due to being part of one of Bangladesh’s several indigenous cultures, the Mundi tribe, as well as being a woman in a male dominated society. Life is hard enough for rural populations in Bangladesh without being further discriminated against. The Mundi have had to fight to retain access to land that they have lived on, and gathered food and firewood, for the last seven hundred years. Most recently, not without some bloodshed, they won a battle against the government when a wall began to be erected around the land to keep them and their community out. Land ownership issues are at the heart of the struggles they still face, so Kemoni, in contrast to many other widows living in rural Bangladesh (a country where 20% of the rural poor live below the poverty line), is in a very fortunate situation.

Another group member, Monika Nokrek, upon leaving said, “We are so happy that you have given your time to hear our stories to see how we live and our conditions. We are really benefiting from making the bags, it is changing our lives. We thank you very very much for visiting us.”

Read more about CJW - CORR - The Jute Works »

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