A passionate painter since her childhood, Joyeta Poli does not have a degree in art, but that has not stopped her from pursuing her passion for turning needlework into art.
She now owns a fashion house of women's clothing in Rajshahi city where she designs sarees and salwar-kameez. Even, sometimes she paints and sews them herself.
A member of the third gender community, Joyeta has always known how hard it is for them to get into the mainstream. She has made that easy for others. And not just for the transgender people, Joyeta also feels for all women.
As the business grew, she started recruiting more workers. Some 400 people of the third gender community and marginalised women now work at her boutique.
The entrepreneur also provides training on applique to the women of her locality.
She has set up her DA Fashion House at her home in Mollapara of Rajshahi. This fashion house employs 20 people full time, half of them hail from the third gender community.
Joyeta also takes care of her parents and lives with them.
She started the business with a capital of only Tk8,000 in 2014. Now, her fashion house sells a variety of handmade sarees, three-pieces, bed sheets and cushion covers. These items are supplied to different parts of the country, including Dhaka and Chattogram.
While talking about her challenges in this career, Joyeta told The Business Standard, "I have arranged a decent work opportunity for many third-gender people. Even then, in the beginning, I had to deal with many problems due to gender identity. I was not given a bank loan for my business just because I was a third-gender person."
But setting up a business properly needs a bank loan, she said.
"I started doing a little bit of needlecraft when I was a student in class six. I also worked in a project on the rights of my community while I was a tenth grader. The project ended in 2012," Joyeta said.
"After passing HSC, I started my boutique with only Tk8,000 in capital," she added.
She further said, "I used to buy clothes from the market and make various designs on them myself and sell them in the local market. But since I am a member of the third gender community, initially, people were not interested in buying my products."
Joyeta would mostly design sarees at the beginning and sell her designed sarees in Kolkata through a buyer from Jashore, but that stopped after his death.
Her DA Fashion house now makes 700 three-pieces and 50 sarees per month. Buyers from Chattogram, Sylhet and Dhaka buy her products and sell them across the country.
Joyeta told TBS, "A buyer from Sylhet exports my products directly to Landon."
A set of her designed three-piece is usually sold at Tk2,500 to Tk3,000, a one-piece at Tk700 to Tk1,100, a two-piece at Tk1500 to Tk2200, and a saree at Tk2500 to Tk3000.
Excluding making costs, Joyeta profits almost Tk1,50,000 per month, she said.
In recognition of Joyeta's work, Rajshahi district administration conferred the best Joyeeta award on her in 2017. Besides, she secured the first runner up position for woman entrepreneur award at SME Regional Products Fair (2020). Manusher Jonno Foundation recognised her as a humanitarian fighter on 13 December, 2020.
Rubina, also a member of the third gender community, has been working with Joyita since four years. She is a second-year HSC student in Rajshahi Police Lines School and College. At Joyeta's boutique, she works on designing, printing, sewing, embroidering and laying stones.
Rubina told TBS, "After starting to work here, I can run my own expenses now; and my monthly income is Tk4,000-5,000."
Ajmira Begum, another employee of DA Fashion House from Sheikhpara area of the city, said, "I have been putting stones and sequins on three-pieces and sarees for the last two years. I get Tk350 per three-piece and Tk400 to Tk500 for per saree."