Bangladesh Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BWCCI) successfully completed “Socio- economic empowerment of women through promotion of natural fibre-based products from agricultural wastages” on 7 th September 2016.

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Bangladesh Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BWCCI) organised a national level workshop on prospects for natural fibre based products as well as the closing ceremony of the BWCCI INSPIRED project on the 7th September 2016. The event was held at Ivy Rahman Auditorium, Bangladesh MohilaSomity, Dhaka.

Bangladesh Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BWCCI) started this pilot project aimed at utilising waste banana and pineapple fibre in November 2013 and was able to successfully execute this project in Tangail, MadhupurNarsingdi and Gaibandha. The project objective was to reduce poverty and empower women by developing SME clusters and by exploring new sources of natural fibres through efficient management of agricultural wastage. Through such actions, the project aimed to establish sustainable employment opportunities and income generation for an estimated 2, 000 women.

Bangladesh as rural country has huge availability of crop wastage, including banana and pineapple. The extraction of fibre from this wastage is made by utilising simple and robust machines and has allowed the start of handicraft production by the rural women in the SME clusters. The INSPIRED project has funded the purchase of 20 such machines.bwcci-fiber

The project implemented activities such as; a base line survey, identification and mobilisation of 40 clusters each consisting of 50 women and selecting cluster leaders   from four project areas Tangail Sadar, Madhupur, Narsingdi and Gaibandha unit areas.   Equal distribution of clusters in each unit was made.  A short feasibility and familiarisation visit in South India was undertaken in early August 2014.

Mr. Amir Hossain Amu, MP, Honourable Minister, Ministry of Industries, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, graced the occasion as the Chief Guest; while Mr. Shushen Chandra Das, Project Director, Bangladesh INSPIRED and Additional Secretary, Ministry of Industries, was present as the Special Guest; and Mr. Mario Ronconi, Minister Counsellor and Head of Cooperation, Delegation of the European Union to Bangladesh was present as the Guest of Honour; and Mr. Sirajul Islam, Director, Buro Bangladesh attended the occasion  as the Distinguished guest.

The event was chaired by Ms. Selima Ahmad, President, BWCCI.Various stakeholders including representatives from government and non-government organisations, development partners, business organisations, general members and directors of BWCCI, project participants as well as women entrepreneurs were also present and actively participated in the event.

Ms. Selima Ahmad, President of BWCCI,stated that the time has come to recognise the banana and pineapple fibre as a valuable resource.  Currently, the waste materials are being used by the participants in the project as the raw materials for handicraft items. In addition, Banana fibre can also be used for apparel, paper, currency note, security printing paper, craft paper, plywood, etc., which could lead to huge potential and economic rewards by creating new jobs in agriculture, small industry and business sectors. bwcciThe Chief Guest, Mr. Amir Hossain Amu, MP, Honourable Minister, Ministry of Industries, stated that the use of agricultural waste for new innovative products can contribute to the national economic development while helping to develop women in the social and economic development of the country and the creation of skilled human resources.Giving importance to the initiative, Honourable Minister informed the audience that the Government sincerely believes that without women empowerment sustainable development is impossible as they represent half of the population of the country. For this reason, the Government is giving importance on economic empowerment of the women in every sector. This project has taken the initiative to involve poor women in income generation and it is really praiseworthy. He also added that employment of the poor rural women through the natural fiber based production has motivated me a lot. Rural women are now developing their skills through technical training to produce different kinds of handicraft products. Natural fibre products have been progressive sectors of this country. Mr. Minister assured also to place request before the honourable Prime Minister for her kind support to flourish this sector in future.  In conclusion the Honourable minister stated that besides government, other non-government institutions, development partners including the European Union and business community should come forward to extend their support to explore this natural fibre based product initiative.

During the open discussion, some of BWCCI members suggested that in order to  support the growth of this sector, easier loans and the provision of technology and training support through, for example, the SME Foundation could be facilitated. The Export Promotion Bureau could also provide assistance to the women entrepreneurs for marketing of their products at international level.

Ali Sabet, in his speech, congratulated BWCCI for undertaking such an initiativeand pleased to have been able to witness the development of the innovative concept with the aim of reducing waste, along with the generation of income and employment for rural poor and more specially women. As the production of the fibre grows and continues, so does the opportunity for the sale of the fibre to the small but growing number of textile manufacturers utilising fibre from agricultural waste in their production.He concluded that with the efforts of the women involved and that of development partners the sector has potential for real and sustainable development.

Full media coverage was given to the event with extracts being shown on television as well as reports in newspapers.