Artisan Khushi Begum did not know anything about making handcrafted jewellery out of copper and brass when she came to Dharampur Purbapara area of Bogura town four years ago after getting married.
She learned it from her husband Abu Bakkar, who has been in the profession for a long time.
Towards the beginning, her husband did not want her to work on it. But when Abu Bakkar was injured in a road accident in 2018, she had to run the family by doing the job. Now they have their own house built with the earnings from making artisanal jewellery.
Khushi said, "I started making jewellery after finishing my household chores in the morning. The average daily income is Tk400. All the women in the area earn money by making ornaments with metal in their spare time."
Fancy Begum, wife of Abu Bakkar's brother, also has been in the profession for six years.
Fancy and her husband Zahurul Islam both do the same job and they earn about Tk1,000 per day.
Fancy said, "I am passionate about making this handcrafted jewellery. I have built a brick house and bought three decimals of land. I cover the educational expenses of our children."
Like Khushi and Fancy, at least 40,000 people of Bogura Sadar upazila are involved in making artisanal jewellery. Of them, more than 35,000 are women, according to Zakir Hossain, general secretary of Dharampur Bazar Shop Owners' Association.
The jewellery-making trade started in Dharampur area, locally known as Gohona Gram (jewellery village), around 150 years ago.
The ornaments were made with brass at the time. Later, the demand for gold jewellery began to increase. But in the late 1980s, the demand for gold ornaments started to fall. Then the artisans focused on making handcrafted jewellery out of brass and copper. From 2006, artisan jewellery making started in full swing. Later, a wholesale market of the ornaments developed in Dharampur Bazar, said the jewellery traders.
There are 238 artisan jewellery shops in the market. There is good demand for jewellery made in Bogura in different parts of the country, including: Dhaka, Chattogram, Rangpur, and Khulna.
According to the artisans, there is huge demand for the handcrafted ornaments, which look like gold jewellery for a wedding ceremony. Around 100 types of handcrafted jewellery are made in Dharampur.
Small factories of the jewellery have been set up in different parts of the region, including Dharampur Bazar. Around 3,000 people, including owners and workers, are involved in the factories of Dharampur Bazar.
At present, handcrafted jewellery worth at least Tk50 lakh is sold on the market per day, according to Ramzan Ali Sardar, president of the Dharampur Bazar Shop Owners' Association.
As such, a monthly transaction of Tk15 crore takes place there.
Women take orders from the traders and make the ornaments at their homes. Some of them have set up small factories in their houses. Although it started in Dharampur, the industry spread in many other areas, including Nishindara, Jhopgari, Phulbari and Baropur areas, of the district town.
During a recent visit to Dharmupar, Nishindara, Jhopgari and Atapara areas, our correspondent saw that not only housewives but also many female students were involved in making the ornaments.
Aduri Akhter, a second year honours student of the Government Mujibur Rahman Women's College, and a resident of Nishindara Uttar Para, said she made artisanal jewellery to bear her education expenditures.
Sadia, a Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) student living in Palli Mangal area of Sadar upazila, said making jewellery was initially her hobby, but now she is happy to earn money from it.
Shafiqul Islam, owner of Shafiq Gold and Antique Jewellers in Dharampur Bazar, has been in the business for 15 years. He usually sells the products wholesale. Jewellery traders from all over the country come to buy the jewellery from him.
He sells products worth at least Tk30 lakh per month to the traders of Jashore, Barisal and Rangpur.
Recently, Md Jibon Minsha came to Dharampur from Gazipur's Tongi, where he has a jewellery shop, to buy the handmade ornaments at wholesale rate.
At present, the demand for these products has increased, he said.
He went to Dharampur due to the good reputation of the artisanal jewellery made there.
Zakir Hossain, general secretary of the Dharampur Bazar Shop Owners' Association, said, "The jewellery business is doing well after overcoming the [novel] coronavirus' impacts. Bogura's jewellery has a good reputation. This is why the number of craftspeople is increasing day by day. New factories are being built. There is demand for antique jewellery in India as well due to the high price of gold. Many women will be able to become successful entrepreneurs if the government provides low interest loans for them."
The Department of Women's Affairs provides training and loans to enhance the skills of women in various fields. When asked whether there was a training programme or a loan facility for the women of Dharampur, Md Shahidul Islam, deputy director of the district's women's affairs department, said, "Thousands of women work in Dharampur at their own initiative. The Department of Women's Affairs is seriously considering whether it is possible to arrange loans for them."
Meanwhile, the Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC) has the opportunity to provide low interest loans for small, micro, cottage and medium industries. The corporation provides loans from Tk2 lakh to Tk20 lakh for cottage industries at 9-10% interest rates.
Md Jahedul Islam, deputy manager of Bogura BSCIC, said, "Many of the artisans of Dharampur have contacted us for loans. But they do not want to accept our terms and conditions. For this reason, it has not been possible to give a loan to anyone as yet."