Zohra Khatun is a 45 year old woman living in a small village in Satkhira. She is the only earning person in her family of four with two daughters and one son. For years she earned her livelihood by begging for alms from her neighbours. With little to no education, she could never find any long term employment, and continued living from day to day.
Zohra met Mrs. Josna Ara, Executive Director of Kheya Samaj Unnayan Sangstha a few years ago. Eventually she was hired in a new venture to produce handmade biomass briquettes. These briquettes have been developed as an alternative fuel for cooking in rural areas, and are made using waste items such as scrap paper, dry leaves and saw dust. Zohra was given thorough training about the manufacturing process, and has been working here for three years.
On an average, Zohra works four hours six days of the week, giving her ample time with her family and to do some household chores. There are three people in her team; one of them is differently abled. Zohra says the work is methodical, and easy to follow once you understand the steps. Watching them work is a pleasure, as they sit mixing and pressing and shaping the briquettes in a continuous rhythm. Zohra gets along well with both her team members, they have become an extension of her family.
Having a steady income is a welcome change for Zohra. “Work gives me peace”- Zohra says. Zohra was asked what she enjoyed most about working. She says the best part is preparing the delivery parcels for clients. She often likes carrying the briquettes out herself; it is satisfying for her to know that something she helped make with her own hand will now travel to someone’s home, or perhaps to a little tea shop. Thinking that the briquettes they make here have even travelled to refugee camps in Teknaf, is even more rewarding. She imagines the aroma of food being cooked, of hot tea bubbling, as she puts together the raw materials for yet another briquette.