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13th May 2011

How it all started

Hathay Bunano is not the work of just one woman, but is the work of many thousands of women all over Bangladesh.

It all started in 2004 when shortly after moving to Bangladesh I realised that it was part of my responsibility in this society to try to do something to help the poor. Having two small children of my own, I was struck by the way economic migration within the country could pull families apart and so wanted to try to create employment that women would be able to do within their villages, staying with their families and their children. It seemed to me that we could learn from the things that were good within the garments industry in Bangladesh and apply this to a much more flexible working system within the villages. So I started to teach a few women to knit.

The first rural knitting courses I taught were in Narshingdi, about two and a half hours drive from Dhaka. I would travel out daily to begin with and sit cross-legged on the floor in a rural tin building and teach knitting while the women taught me Bangla. Sharing made the learning fun. By becoming part of their communities and learning about their lives I became increasingly convinced that rural production opportunities were necessary. By arranging rural production centres, just basic village buildings that we rented, it was possible to create quality control procedures and ongoing learning processes enabling us to produce the toys we now make for Pebble.

The concept behind Hathay Bunano came from those early encounters when I was welcomed into village life in Bangladesh and learnt that what the women wanted was fairly paid, good quality, flexible and local employment that was regular and sustainable. Isn’t that what we all want? Work that is sufficiently flexible that we can take a day off when our child is sick, that is only 5-10 minutes walk from our home so that we don’t waste time travelling, that is regular so that we can plan and save. And in the villages flexibility is also important so that the work fits in with the agricultural seasons, so that at harvest time wives can help their husbands in the fields and during the floods when there is no agricultural work, wives are able to support the family.

Hathay Bunano is testament to the amazing artisans who have built it.

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