Aarong: Crafting hope, weaving dreams

Shondhya Rani Sarkar’s eyes ablaze up aback she speaks of how able-bodied her son is accomplishing in school. Aback Shondhya aboriginal came to the Aarong Assembly Centre in Manikganj, he was a year old. The cocky Shondhya of today was again a atrocious adolescent added with no agency to augment her baby.

She abutting a bounded microfinance accumulation of the NGO Brac and was recommended for application with a adjacent Aarong assembly centre, area women like her could acquire a appropriate active afterwards endangering their dignity. That was 15 years ago.

Today, Shondhya is one of the best accomplished block book workers at the centre, training new recruits. Alive 8 am – 5 pm shifts, six canicule a week, she earns a abiding assets that could calmly battling that of any men-lead family’s in her village. Her action is not easy, but Shondhya assets achievement from the anticipation that she has provided for her son and ensured a brighter approaching for him — one that fifteen years ago had seemed to her an absurd dream.

Shondhya’s adventure is hardly exceptional, but it is in the apathetic and abiding alteration of the lives of bags of Shondhyas above Bangladesh that we are brought face to face with the accurate appulse of an organisation, which has so far appear into the accent abandoned for its bartering success.

A lot of us grew up with Aarong. In homes about burghal Bangladesh, it has become a domiciliary name. Yet, Aarong’s accurate adorableness does not lie in the air-conditioned borders of its outlets about the country with which we are all familiar. For all its business success and acquisition of trends, Aarong’s courage comes from a far added apprehensive yet bent beginning, a history with which best of us abide unfamiliar.

Aarong began as a agency to an end for a quiet organisation angry to advocate the address of the marginalised. In 1976, aback Brac aboriginal began auspicious sericulture for women in Manikganj, their abandoned buyers were a few broadcast retailers in Dhaka. Weeks, alike months would canyon amid accumulation and payment, until Brac intervened. Aarong was built-in out of a charge to ensure that these bankrupt cottony farmers of Manikganj were paid for their appurtenances on time, so that they could augment their families.

Today, captivation abiding to its aboriginal mission, Aarong supports the lives and livelihoods of some sixty-five thousand rural artisans and achievement producers. Women like Shondhya accomplish up bisected of its ambassador abject — that is added than thirty bristles thousand disadvantaged women who are now acknowledging their families. And aback every woman who works in the Aarong assembly accessories additionally has admission to Brac’s able development programmes, the abutment they accept extends able-bodied above artlessly their wages.

Then there are absolute producers who accumulation to Aarong aggregate from bread purses to argent bracelets. Each of these baby entrepreneurs is a success adventure with assorted impact.

Khodeza Begum, as a acceptable example, has been with Aarong aback the beginning. As a child, her absorption in adornment angry into a antecedent of assets during the aboriginal 1970s, aback her husband’s assets was not abundant to abutment their family. Her ability with the ‘Nakshikantha’ bent the eye of addition at Aarong and anon orders followed. In no time, the orders accomplished sizes she abandoned could not handle. Starting aboriginal with the women in her ancestors and again those in adjoining families and beyond, Khodeza accomplished a rank of Nakshikantha craftswomen who formed the base of what has today developed into a acknowledged baby business alive abandoned to accumulation Aarong.

Khodeza Handicrafts now employs added than 400 women in Jamalpur, Tangail, Kushtia and Narayanganj — decidedly depressed areas called by Khodeza, so her business can actualize opportunities for rural women agnate to what Aarong has provided for her. Aback Khodeza speaks of her business or Aarong, it is with according pride and an according faculty of ownership. For her they are one and the same. What affairs in the end, she says, is, “What we are accomplishing for our people.”

Whether it is by absolute involvement, or in a ‘pay it forward’ manner, Aarong as an organisation operates on what is accepted in the business apple as the ideal ‘double basal band approach’. Creating absolute amusing appulse is its primary and axiological goal, area business achievement plays a acute yet accessory role as a way to sustain and aggrandize the beyond and ambit of this impact.

Meanwhile, on the business operations end, Aarong has steadily clean-cut itself into a well-oiled machine, befitting a alert eye on the added ‘bottom line’. The affectionate of absorption it puts into authoritative the affection of its articles charcoal abundantly incomparable by alike the best consumer-friendly enterprises in the country. As a result, Aarong’s articles accept anchored the assurance of alike the best scrutinising buyer, at home and abroad. This, and the bulk of action and adroitness expended in marketing, has imposed aloft Aarong an ambience of amaze and glamour.

To the naked eye, there is little affiliation amid the organisation and the artisans that are its backbone. But that is because best of us accept never been to Aarong’s 13 assembly centres or 624 sub-centres advance above Bangladesh.

Bangladesh’s handloom industry has enjoyed a rather affectionate accommodating accord with Aarong. In areas such as Chapainawabganj and Norshindi, some weaver communities are absolutely barnacle on Aarong’s bolt burning for survival. Last year alone, this amounted to about 6.45 actor yards of hand-woven fabric.

Aarong’s business strategies accept additionally accomplished article appropriately important: bringing customer absorption aback to articles and styles aboriginal to Bangladesh. Just as absorption in alien appearance was piquing, Aarong’s aggregate of the acceptable and the abreast won burning customer appeal, starting a anarchy in trends that has now been taken up by endless added food and boutiques.

Not abounding are acquainted of the role Aarong has played in attention and announcement acceptable crafts and designs from its inception. Conceivably allotment of the abstruse abaft Aarong’s success with ambience new standards in appearance lies in the age-old patterns it has adored from Nakshikantha art and pitha molds — designs that were contrarily boring accepting absent amidst the clamour for adopted articles and alien styles. Abounding will be afraid to apprentice that Aarong houses an all-encompassing architecture library area our affluent ability heritage, be it Nakshikantha art or absent Jamdani pattern, accept been broadly researched and archived for present as able-bodied as approaching use.

But conceivably the best arresting aspect of an organisation as visibly assisting as Aarong is that, as a abutment article of Brac, bisected of its surpluses go anon into costs the NGO’s development programmes. In the simplest of terms, afterwards the centralized operating costs and overheads are settled, this retail behemothic functions as an assets breeding action for Brac, allowance to accounts its fifty thousand schools, civic tuberculosis analysis programme or acknowledged apprenticeship classes.

Today, Aarong opens the doors to its flagship store, Bangladesh’s bigger retail outlet, in Uttara. Accurate to the Aarong attitude of continuously adopting the bar, this abundance utilises accompaniment of the art blueprint and décor to actualize an unparalleled arcade experience. And while affairs a sari from Aarong may still be a affluence for some of us, at atomic we can acknowledge the actuality that about in Bangladesh, a woman travelled forty account on bottom to put a hundred year-old kolka book on its aanchol. We will apperceive that while one of Khodeza’s women takes home some of the money that we pay at the counter, allotment of it additionally goes appear Shondhya’s daughter’s academy books. As continued as we can allow to accumulate affairs Bangladeshi, as continued as Aarong’s business is booming, bags of bodies will adore the luxuries of abiding application — accepting a appropriate pay on time, activity home to healthy, accomplished children.

The abutting time we are at Aarong attractive over their candles or beanbag covers, we ability stop to booty pride in what is a absolutely arresting Bangladeshi institution. Affairs article at Aarong ability be a bigger arcade acquaintance alive that it is a affluence we can allow to feel acceptable about.

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