Following the 1971 War of Liberation, the US based Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) established clinics and nutrition centres in Saidpur, northern Bangladesh, where the displaced Bihari population were suffering more than most from the impacts of food shortages and disease.
What the refugee Biharis needed were jobs. Following a campaign in 1976 to reduce the impact of plastic shopping bags in Europe, MCC was approached to provide an alternative using jute Äì a staple crop of Bangladesh. They opened a workshop in Saidpur for women who had attended the nutrition centre, in what was meant to be a temporary employment project. Today this project has become Action Bags, employing hundreds of women making a variety of jute products for the Fair Trade export market. The centre has also spawned other production units producing handmade paper products among other things.
Shakila Parveen was married at 14 to an older man. Her husband was killed by terrorists while on business in Pakistan a year after their baby was born. Functionally illiterate, she had to find a job to support her son, so she approached Action Bags. Fifteen years later, she can read and write, has put her son through school, and is buying herself a home. Shakila Parveen is just one of the hundreds of success stories from Action Bags' short history.
Most of the women were, and still are, widows or abandoned wives, who after training are encouraged and assisted to start their own small businesses at home. Action Bags buys the products the women make, and provides classes in literacy, health and nutrition, which the women attend when delivering their orders.
Jute fibre is 100% bio-degradable and recyclable.
Jute is a rain-fed crop with little need for fertilizer or pesticides.
It is the cheapest vegetable fibre procured from the bast or skin of the plant's stem.
It is the second most important vegetable fibre after cotton, in terms of usage, global consumption, production, and availability.
It has high tensile strength, low extensibility, and ensures better breathability of fabrics.
It is one of the most versatile natural fibres that has been used in raw materials for packaging, textiles, non-textile, construction, and agricultural sectors.
It is a relative of Hemp but is totally free from narcotic elements and odour.
The varieties of Jute are: Tossa Jute - Corchorus olitorius (Golden shine) & White Jute - Corchorus capsularis (Silvery Shine).
The best source of Jute in the world is the Bengal Delta Plain in the Ganges Delta, most of which is occupied by Bangladesh.
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