It was very difficult for Poly Khatun – a resident of Katli village in Shalikha upazila of Magura – to support her family on her day-labourer husband's earnings. So, she decided to financially support her family by processing human hair. She has run this business for around a decade and can now manage her family expenditures comfortably.
Poly said, "I earn Tk2,000-Tk3,000 per month processing human hair for four hours each day. I have to sort the good hair from unusable hair and wash it. Now, I can help my husband to bear our family's expenses. I pay my daughter's education expenses." Housewives Anjuara and Sarika Begum, of Boikhola village in the upazila, have also brought about changes to their lives by working in this trade.
Like, Poly, Anjuara and Sarika, around 400 ultra-poor people – of the Boikhola, Katli, Boroichara, Dighi, Gopalgram and Kumarkuta villages under Shatakhali and Urpara unions in Shalikha upazila – are involved in the profession. They have improved their financial condition by doing this work.
Twenty men of these villages run the business. The businessmen collect the hair from different villages and the workers – most of whom are women – process the hair.
Some men are also employed by the businessmen to collect the hair.
Omar Ali, a human hair businessman from Boikhola village, said, "One kilogramme of hair costs Tk4,500-Tk5,000. After processing the hair, we sell it at Tk10,000-Tk12,000 in Dhaka's Uttara. The processed hair is then exported to China and South Korea, where it is used for wigs."
In a recent visit to the Boikhola, Katli and Kumarkuta villages of the upazila, our correspondent found that an average of 15 to 20 men and women work in each hair businessperson's house. After doing their household chores, the women work there about four hours per day, for Tk2,000 to Tk3,000 per month.
When asked how the hair is processed, Omar said, "First, the workers sort the good-quality hair from the collected hair. Afterward, it is washed with Wheel Powder, or shampoo, and dried. Then it is ready for sale."
Hasanur Rahman of Boikhola village was the first to establish such a business in the area. He started it 10 years ago. Hasanur said, "I came to know about the business from my friend Saifur, who lives in Pabna. Towards the beginning, this work was looked down upon in my locality. Now, many people are doing it."
Another hair businessman, Azizul, said apart from doing their agricultural work, many people of the area are now processing hair as a part time job. They earn extra money by doing it, he added.
Kamal Hossain, chairman of Shalikha Upazila Parishad, said the human hair processing job has created employment opportunities for many illiterate men and women in the area. "It is improving their standard of living," he added.
Abdus Salam, deputy general manager of the Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC) in Magura, said, "Several hundred families in some villages of Shalikha upazila are earning their livelihoods by processing human hair. The BSCIC will provide financial help to, and training for, the people in this profession – if they seek assistance in expanding their businesses."