Learn and Earn: How Minara added resources to her family and community

“Learning sewing came to me as a blessing for myself and the community,” Minara Begum, a resident in Camp 5 said fondly.

Minara lives in the camp, with her mother, Siru, and father, Syed. They had been living on aid provided from different agencies for people who fled from violence in the Rakhine state of Myanmar. They came to Bangladesh during the major influx on August 25, 2017.

Minara’s father is terminally ill so cannot work. But he does not allow Minara or her mother to look for work. Minara and her family stayed at home and accepted this life as fate. She used to prepare food and do other chores at house to help her mother.

“My mother and I always had free time after the chores were done. As we are two, it took barely an hour or two to complete the work. So mostly we had idle time. Since my father was firm about me not working outside home, I had no other option even when we were financially not doing much.” Minara said.

One day, the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society (BDRCS) community volunteer ,who visits her block regularly, suggested that Minara and her mother visit the community centre managed by BDRCS and the Canadian Red Cross. She assured them that this facility is totally safe and women-friendly, and that Minara would also be able to meet other women in the community.
Minara seated at a sewing machine with a Bangladesh Red Crescent team member beside her.

Minara sewing masks in the community space; Photo: Imtiaz Sarwar/PMO/BDRCS

With that assurance, Minara and her mother visited the facility. They saw how the women in the community were learning different skills. It amazed Minara. She asked the instructor to show her crochet knitting. Soon she mastered the skill of knitting traditional prayer caps for men. She even started learning sewing at the community centre and gradually started making patterns and designs on her own. Then the COVID-19 pandemic struck, and the lockdown stopped everything.

After a couple of months, the demand for reusable fabric masks started appearing, since the surgical masks seemed to be too expensive for the community.

Minara and a few of her fellow artisans started a factory for sewing reusable fabric masks with a couple of machines and a small investment within her block. This opened a path to income for many women who knew tailoring and saved a huge expense to the community since these masks are reusable and durable.

“I am thankful to Red Cross[i], that they gave me the opportunity to learn and practice these crafts. Specifically, the tailoring helped not only me to earn a living, but also allowed the community to save themselves from the pandemic when using facemask is a must. I got a solution to my financial condition and I could serve my community at the same time,” Minara said.

[i] In Myanmar the National Society is known as the Myanmar Red Cross, hence why Myanmar nationals also know the movement as the Red Cross, while the BDRCS uses the Red Crescent emblem and name.

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