Nakshi Kantha – a type of quilt embroidered by hand – is one of the noted traditions of Chapainawabganj. Once used only for domestic purposes as a form of folk art, it has taken on a commercial form and is widely used in both urban and rural areas.
Taharima Begum Lucky is a successful woman entrepreneur, who has played a significant role in commercialising the traditional quilt. She is the proprietor of an organisation called Nur Nakshi where they use old clothes to make Nakshi Kanthas of various designs.
These quilts are then sold both at home and abroad. More than a thousand women are employed by Taharima and help make the venture successful.
The journey of Nur Nakshi began in 1982, in Taharima's own house in Chapainawabganj's Islampur area, with a handful of women. The venture, which started as a hobby, soon became widely recognised as a business venture.
Eventually, the scope of the business increased and so did the number of its employees. Currently, around 2,200 women work for Nur Nakshi. Most of these women are from marginalised communities.
These employees are the heart of the company as they work to supply the end product according to orders that later are supplied to showrooms around the country and are even exported abroad.
Taharima Begum Lucky is not only a successful entrepreneur, she is also the President of Chapainawabganj Nakshi Kantha Association. The number of members of this association is 200. She has also established Nur Nakshi Mahila Jagaran Samiti.
According to her, the company has employees in different locations, including Chapainawabganj city, Amanura, Shibganj, Ranihati, Mahishalbari, Rahanpur, and Godagari among others.
Taharima said that the workers are given everything from needle-thread, clothes and designs which are provided by 20 commissioned agents of the company.
Women then work as per the demand and at the end of the task, they are paid accordingly, which plays a significant role in making the women financially independent.
When asked about the intriguing designs on the Nakshi Kanthas, Taharima said that once she was in charge of all the designs but now, she lets the workers choose, too, for which they are paid more.
Employees of Nur Nakshi make at least 1,000 Nakshi Kanthas a month. However, other than that, they also make home accessories like bedsheets and cushion covers, wallmats and other clothing items. Overall, some 4,000 – 5,000 products are made per month.
For her work, Taharima Begum Lucky has received many awards at home and abroad. She also received the Micro Entrepreneur of the Year award in the women's category at the 7th National SME Products Fair 2019.
"In the beginning, we did not participate in exhibitions. However, since participating in the fairs, the scope of our business has increased. Now we participate in international fairs in India, Bhutan and Nepal every year. Earlier, we had to participate at our own expense but now SME bears at least 50% of the cost," Taharima said.
Women in different Upazilas of Chapainawabganj and different areas of Godagari in Rajshahi are involved with Nur Nakshi. There is also a factory on the ground floor of her three-storey house in Islampur. All kinds of products are processed and finished there. There is also a large showroom next to the factory in Islampur.
Nakshi Kantha of different designs – including Carpet design, Bakulful, Running Four, Lahari, Sujni, Syatha, Sodhala, Nayanmoni, Paglu, Jhilik, Leek Lahari – are made at Nur Nakshi. Each kantha costs from around Tk900 to Tk6,000.
Md Mostafa, an agent of Nur Nakshi of Charmohanpur area of Chapainawabganj Municipality said, "I am in charge of about 350 women in my area. I supply them with cloth and yarn and after completing a kantha, the women sell the finished products at Nur Nakshi sales centre. As an agent, I make a profit of Tk200-300 per kantha."
Housewife Muktara Khatun said, "After finishing all the household chores, there is not much work from noon to evening. I used to be unoccupied at that time. But now by making one kantha a month, I earn Tk700-800. This money helps me to pay for my son's school fees, food, and I can also spend it on other household amenities."
Saima Islam, another housewife, said that she earns between Tk1,500 and Tk2,000 per week by attaching fringes to Nur Nakshi's carpet kanthas.
"When my husband had no work during the first few months of the pandemic, we made a living with this money," she added.
S M Abdul Baki, director of Nur Nakshi, said that the company sells products worth Tk5-7 lakh every month. These products then go to different parts of the country, including: Dhaka, Chattogram, Jamalpur, Khulna, and Sylhet.
Baki said that the main feature of the company is that it pays its workers as soon as they deliver the products, which helps to maintain clarity.
"Unfortunately, many districts claim our products to be theirs," he complained.
Shantana Haque Nur, a member of the Zila Parishad and former Upazila Mahila Vice Chairman, is a regular customer of Nakshi Sales Centre. She said that the Nakshi Kanthas there are of very high quality and can attract buyers easily.
Chapainawabganj District Small and Cottage Industries Corporation Assistant General Manager Md Amjad Hossain said that in Chapainawabganj, kanthas are weaved in two ways – one, where they are made after an order is placed and two, where kanthas are produced at one's initiative.
"Nur Nakshi has successfully commercialised both the forms, they are the leading figure in this industry at the moment," he added.