Last week, People Tree interviewed Khurshida Begum and other women who work at Swallows in Bangladesh to learn how Fair Trade has made a difference to women.
People Tree: Who is your biggest female hero?
Khurshida: Begum Rokeya is my hero. She empowered women in Bangladesh. She was the woman who campaigned for women’s education, health and nutrition.
What is your message to women of the world on International Women’s Day?
Women are not behind. They have proved themselves as equal. Women must be treated as equal human beings.
What do you enjoy the most about being a woman?
I enjoy motherhood. But As long as I am working in the weaving section at Swallows, I can earn money to run my home.
Does Fair Trade make a big difference to working women? How?
Yes, Fair Trade makes a big difference to rural women likes me.
My regular work means I can help my family and also I can make important decisions for my family and at Swallows where I work.
How does Fair Trade help you?
At Swallows, Fair Trade provides us with regular work and fair wages. Not only work, Fair Trade also supports legal aid, a crèche for our children, primary education and micro credit.
What do you enjoy the most about working with craft skills?
I have been working as a weaver in the weaving section for near about 15 years and I enjoy this work very much.
As a working woman, how does Fair Trade make you feel empowered?
I can easily participate in the decision making process at my work place and the family. Through working I can earn money and spend it as I please. Also now I can save for the future of my family.
How are women’s contributions to the economy, society and community recognized?
Women make a huge significant contribution to the economy, society and community. This is beginning to be recognized by all.
In the past, the economic contribution of women was substantial but largely went unacknowledged. Women in rural areas were responsible for most of the post-harvest work that was done in the home. They were also responsible for keeping livestock, poultry and vegetable gardens. Women in cities relied on domestic jobs.
Beginning in the 1980s, women increasingly worked in manufacturing jobs, especially in the garment industry. Those with more education worked in government, health care and teaching, but their numbers remained very small.
Today, women have access to health care, education and training for improved productivity, health and prosperity.
When did you face a barrier, as a woman, in your society?
When I was about 16 years old, I could not go out from home because I was a girl. My parents felt I had to stay at home because of social barriers. When I started work at Swallows, I received different training. I am now aware of women’s rights. This is helping my family to understand the need to break this social barrier.
What is your dream for your daughter?
As a women, I did not complete my high school education. My earnings have helped me pay for my daughter’s education. I will give my daughter every opportunity for higher education.
The theme of this year’s World Fair Trade Day is ‘The Power of Hands’. How do your hands help to provide for yourself, your family and your community?
This is so critical and makes such a huge difference! If I can support my family through work in Fair Trade acknowledging our craft skills and handmade products changes our lives and helps us develop our society in many ways.