In Northern Bangladesh, there are groups of highly skilled artisans who are adept at crafting products. Many of these artisans are extremely poor women with limited access to capital, markets and employment opportunities, within a patriarchal social system that collectively exacerbates their cycle of poverty. The home textile sector has averaged about 20% growth a year, with exports totaling $313.51 million in 2008-09.
CARE Bangladesh was already working to create employment opportunities for a large pool of women artisans , through the USAID supported SHOUHARDOprogram,. In 2007, Systain Consulting, the local partner of Kik a German retailer, approached CARE for help on sourcing from small local producers.
Phase I: In 2008, CARE identified and trained the women and provided support to Classic Handmade products (CHP) a local SME to establish village level inclusive rug production units. Kik ensured compliance and procured a specific quantity of rugs from CHP. The women received a total of 6 months of specialized training, supported by a monthly stipend to learn how to make rugs using handlooms to enable them to meet Kik’s European customers’ specifications. Following the training, CHP established village level inclusive (rug) production units with about 25 women.
From May-December 2008, CARE and CHP established five village rug units, benefiting 120 poor women. The average female worker makes about 2500 taka about $37. Kik was very happy with the quality of the product and the fact that they were providing jobs for women who were previously unemployed. However, the five units were only able to provide a small portion of Kik’s demand
Phase II: From 2009-2010, CARE, through the SETU project, supported CHP to expand the number of inclusive (rug) business units from 5 to13, increasing the number of women from 120 to a total of 320 women. During this phase demand for rugs has increased significantly. As a result, women were paid 14 taka per rug produced, up from 8 taka in 2008, increasing monthly salaries for the women can range from 4,000 to 6,900 taka ($57-99) . In addition, CHP has been averaging about 15% annual growth since the start of the project.
The economic benefits for these women do not remain solely with them, their families and the entire community has benefited from this local value chain production. In addition, these women have gained greater respect within their family and among communities, giving them a greater sense of pride. They have reported that they are now joint decision makers in their families, and that other people in their communities come to them for advice on matters of life and livelihoods.
Phase III: In 2010, Kik decided to fund a separate project, from the profits they had been making as a result of the partnership with CARE, to provide health services to women workers and their families. Many of the workers had poor hygiene and had complained of health issues, particularly joint and back pain from the work of pulling and pushing handlooms. Kik believed that the health services would address the workers’ concerns as well as increase their productivity. Kik provided $50,000 to CARE to support quarterly health camps at 10 village rug units. Health service providers, including a female physician, provided information on basic health, hygiene, nutrition and stress management topics, a health consultation, medicine as required- and women received blood grouping. In addition, the workers were taught about exercises they could do to relieve their joint and back pain.
CARE Bangladesh was awarded the Public Affairs Asia, Gold Standard Sustainability Award in 2009 for this project. It was the first time that an NGO ever won this category.
 Bangladesh Export Promotion Bureau
 Largest food security program at CARE Bangladesh and in the world- approximately US$ 130 Million