December 21, 2014

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“Since the collapse, I am too afraid to go back inside a garments factory,” said Ankhi, who used to work in Rana Plaza along with her husband. Although she survived, her husband’s body was never found. Left to provide for their daughter on her own, she had to find another means to survive.

livelihood_photocollage

“Since the collapse, I am too afraid to go back inside a garments factory,” said Ankhi, who used to work in Rana Plaza along with her husband. Although she survived, her husband’s body was never found. Left to provide for their daughter on her own, she had to find another means to survive.

To help Ankhi and others like her, a livelihood development component was established as part of the BRAC and Benetton Group project to assist Rana Plaza survivors and families of those who perished. The objective was to enhance the capacity of these individuals by giving them skills training to start a new and sustainable livelihood of their choice.

Each project participant was surveyed and selected based on varying criteria. For example, one consideration was total family income and whether this was enough to support the rest of each recipient’s family.

After the initial selection process, recipients were contacted to assess their existing conditions in more detail. “We inquired about past work experience, considering each individual’s current demands and requirements,” explained Swarnali Chakma, senior sector specialist at BRAC’s disaster, environment and climate change programme. Recipients were then advised, based on their responses, and asked to choose the livelihood that would best meet their needs. Among their choices, the most common were small businesses such as managing a grocery store, tailoring, livestock rearing agriculture.

Recipients’ choices were determined by individual levels of physical and mental trauma or on the basis of what was the most appropriate option for their families. Some choices were also made based on the location where the recipients felt most comfortable setting up their new businesses. A number of recipients, for example, chose livestock rearing or agriculture because they could do it from their homes. Some were able to open grocery stores near their homes, as they were able to find a store to rent in the neighbourhood. Many others, like Ankhi, already had basic tailoring skills, so they opted to open tailoring businesses.

Recipients were then trained in batches according to the livelihood they had chosen. Even though each module was customised to impart the most comprehensive training for each type of livelihood, all recipients were also given guidelines on people skills to help manage and maintain their businesses. “They taught us how to properly engage our customers and form relationships with other successful business owners,” explained Kabir Mollah, a recipient who opened his own grocery store. “This way we could form our own support network as well as watch and learn from others.”

Finally, recipients were provided seed capital to help launch their businesses. Inventory for their stores, calves for livestock or sewing machines and materials for tailoring shops were bought by project staff and distributed accordingly.

For many, the livelihood development component of this project has provided a new beginning and hope for a better life. “I’m doing it for my daughter,” said Ankhi. “With my new business I can gradually make more money and continue her education so that she may have a brighter future.”

Over the coming weeks, BRAC and Benetton Group will continue to showcase the experiences of those helped and their journey of recovery. Below are the stories of two such survivors.

 

Anushka Zafar is a senior officer and sub-editor at BRAC Communications.

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