The little tin shed on the island of Ratankandi in Bangladesh is brimming with the sounds of productivity. Animated laughter drifts out through open windows before being swept away with the breeze that blows along the Ganges River bank. The dull shed walls fade away among the vibrant colours of the wool and cotton that are scattered along the workbenches, and before the end of the day will be lovingly transformed from lifeless fabrics to quirky, cute children’s toys.
The people of Ratankandi in Bangladesh are among the poorest in the world. This little island in the middle of the Ganges River has to contend with flooding, poverty, terrible living conditions, high rates of unemployment and little government support. Many women are uneducated and illiterate, and many men are employed to do arduous, physical and menial tasks that are often poorly paid. Providing shelter, food and clothes for a family is often almost impossible.
But one woman’s vision and dedication has set out to change the fortunes of this remote community, and in doing so, has radically transformed the lives of thousands of rural Bangladeshi families.
Samantha Morshed and her husband created the Hathay Bunano (which translates to Hand-Made) brand, in 2005. Samantha set about teaching forty women in Ratankandi the skills of sewing, crochet and knitting, so they could then be employed producing handmade toys, blankets and clothes for children that are exported to the UK, Australia, America and Europe. At Little Hathi we’re proud and excited to be closely involved with this fantastic Fair Trade business.
Samantha firmly believes in the power of social enterprise projects that provide fair working conditions and employment for women in rural areas. Bangladesh has an established textile industry, and there are many huge factories in large and hostile industrial cities that draw workers from rural areas to work long hours for small wages and slum-like accommodation. Samantha believes that providing opportunities for women to learn new skills and gain fair and safe employment in their own rural communities is the best way to tackle poverty. Not only can women and their families stay and work safely among the support of family and friends, but they can also contribute to local economies; eventually building stronger communities that can pull themselves out of the poverty trap.
Hathay Bunano have gone from strength to strength in the last five years, and now employ over 3,500 women across Bangladesh. Not only is the company a fair-trade, community based project, but it is a profitable company, with all profits being put back into the business. Not relying on donations or government hand outs means that Hathay Bunano can provide long term and sustainable help and support.
Little Hathi are proud to have worked closely with Hathay Bunano since our launch in 2007. As well as stocking the full range of Pebble Toys (Hathay Bunano’s new brand range), we are now the UK and European distributors for the Pebble brand.
We are also thrilled and very excited to be able have our own exclusive designs and ideas, lovingly created here at Little Hathi hq, and hand-made for us by the Hathay Bunano team. We know you’ll love them as much as we do.
And finally, let us introduce you to Hathi. He’s our kind and caring little elephant who helps us spread the word about Hathay Bunano’s good work, as well as Little Hathi’s commitment to sourcing ethical and Fair Trade toys and clothes that are irresistibly cute and cuddly. He’s already part of the Babi Pur family!