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15th March 2015

Organic growth in rural centres

When we start to teach women to knit and crochet in new centres and in new areas there is often a lot of interest from the local area but also a fair amount of scepticism.   Many NGO projects have come and gone before us in Bangladesh and in many areas the women are, quite rightly, slow to trust.   For this reason we developed a model which moves women to production work, for which they are paid, very quickly.  It enables us to gain momentum in the areas quickly and enables us to reduce the number of dropouts to a minimum.   Often in new rural centres we have no dropouts at all, which is extremely rare when compared to NGO projects.


Once all the women identified in the area have been trained and have started to earn money, then we sometimes see a really wonderful situation.   Women who didn’t enlist for the training, for a whole variety of reasons – maybe they didn’t feel they could manage it, or didn’t believe it would lead to real work, or was just another training course with no money at the end, or felt their existing work was better – so many reasons, then slowly come to the centres and learn from friends and relatives that they know who are already working with us.    They tend to learn at home first – encouraging someone they know to teach them and then they come to the centre because they need more training materials for learning all the items.


We are welcoming of new women coming to the centres.   We operate inclusively and as long as a women shows commitment then it is extremely unlikely that she would be turned away, even though we might have already fulfilled the required number of women to be trained in any one area.    Recently we’ve been partnering with Winrock International under the CREL programme, funded by USAID, and we’ve trained and are now employing 900 women in 3 different areas.   The areas are identified by Winrock as being very susceptible to climate change and areas where forests are being cut down daily to provide employment.    We were delighted therefore in these areas when additional women, beyond the scope of the programme, started to come to the centres to learn the techniques and to start making Pebble toys.


In addition to the 900 women that we trained we have seen an additional 64 women join the Shatkira centres, 42 join the Cox’s Bazar centres and 12 join the Chandpal centres.   That’s an increase of more than 13% on the number we were requested to train in the programme.  In a country where dropouts of training programmes are notoriously high, we are so happy to be talking about working with more women than we agreed to train under the terms of the joint venture and delighted that these women really see this work as being useful and valuable to them.   The preschools that we have opened in conjunction with our distributors and retailers has been a big factor in encouraging more women to come into the centres and learn.   They see the benefit for the whole family.


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