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27th May 2013

Happy bananas

When I first learnt about Hathay Bunano, I misheard the name as ‘Happy Bananas.’ And when I visited with a few friends earlier this week, we all agreed that it is indeed a happy place.

Rayhan, the Operations Manager, greeted us in his office, and gave us a short presentation on the organization, from its origins in 2004, when Samantha taught a few rural women to knit, to the present day, with its 63 centres, sixty of which are in rural areas, and work force of 6,000.

As we toured the building, we learnt all about the production of Pebble knitted toys, from Samantha’s designs in Dhaka, to the work in villages, to the packing and export.

A group of women sat working on their crochet. Two or three small played near them. Other women knitted at tables, or put finishing touches on toys knitted in the rural centres. A young woman sewed on the Pebble labels by hand.

‘Hathay Bunano means hand-made,’ Rayhan told us. ‘Everything is made by hand, except our new rag doll range.’ Every room we visited was quiet, apart from the cheery chatter of the women and the gentle whir of fans. There are few machines at Hathay Bunano, and the working areas are spacious and cool.

We visited a pre-school class, attended by workers’ children . To our delight, a small boy stood up and proudly sang ‘Twinkle, twinkle, little star’.

In another room, three disabled women knitted. ‘They have joined us from the Centre for Rehabilitation of the Paralysed,’ Rayhan said. ‘ They can work comfortably in this room. Nursing mothers also come in here to feed their babies.’

Hathay Bunano is a far cry from the horror stories that have been published recently about workers and working conditions in Bangladesh. And, as always in this country, we were welcomed with wide, warm smiles.

Perhaps Samantha could design a banana rattle with a happy face. Happy Bananas!

Paola, Dhaka

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