The story of one woman’s journey from poverty to independence in Bangladesh.
As a sixteen year old girl in Bangladesh, Bella was married off in order to lighten the financial burden on her parents. After only three years of marriage, her husband left her and her infant son to fend for themselves.
With not a cent to her name and a child to provide for, Bella resorted to begging on the streets in Bangladesh. One day, she saw a neighbor wearing a new sari walking towards the center of town. “Where are you going in such a hurry?” she had asked. “And how did you afford such beautiful new clothes?”
Her friend smiled and said that there was work in paper-making at a place called Biborton (a workshop of Prokritee). She invited Bella to come along and have an interview with Papri, the manager of the paper-making workshop.
Bella was reluctant to go because she was a poor beggar woman with no education and no job training. Who would ever want to hire her?
When Bella arrived at Biborton, she met Papri, the manager and sat down for a job interview. After a bit of small talk, Papri said she had three questions for Bella:
1. Can you read and write?
2. Have you ever had a paying job?
3, If times get tough, do you have relatives or friends who will let you move in until times get better?
Bella answered no to all of the questions. She had never attended school and couldn’t even write her own name. When her signature was required she put down her thumb print.
To Bella’s great surprise, Papri reached out her hand and told Bella that she could start working at Biborton that same day. Her son, Shodesh, was taken to the onsite day care center and Bella started training in making handmade paper.
Bella started working at Biborton in 1996 when her son, Shodesh, was only two years old.
Today, she heads a work group that produces finished products like notebooks, journals and decorative paper boxes that are sold to Ten Thousand Villages and many other Biborton customers around the world.
Bella, has learned to read and write at the Biborton after-work education program. Bella also took advantage of the savings and loan program at Biborton and was able to buy a small plot of land and build a new house for herself and Shodesh.
Probably the biggest sign of success for Bella is that Shodesh has graduated from high school, completed an electrician apprenticeship and now owns his own small electrician business in Agailjhara.