02/21/2009, 00.00
BANGLADESH
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Sewing school provides tribal families with livelihood

The center was created in the 1980's. The idea came from a missionary of French origin, who during the 1960's began to create employment opportunities for women of the Garo tribe. Today, more than 100 families are able to support themselves thanks to income obtained through work at the center.

Mymensingh (AsiaNews/UCAN) - Thanks to the work of the Salesian sisters, the women of the Garo tribe are learning an occupation, and their families are even able to build homes. Northeast of Dhaka, in the parish of Bhalukapara, the Salesian Sisters of Mary Immaculate opened a center in 1986 to teach the women to sew.

Over more than 20 years of activity, the center, adjacent to the parish, has helped young women and mothers to learn an occupation, and participate in a little joint venture thanks to which 100 families are today able to support themselves independently.

Sr. Mary Rani Rozario, the director of the center, explains that the idea of a place to teach women an occupation came about in 1967. Sr. Genevi, a French missionary who at the time was the mother superior of the convent of St. Joseph in Bhalukapara, thought it was indispensable to create employment opportunities for the Garo women. In the matriarchal society of the tribals, the development of nuclear families and their ability to support themselves is based precisely on the initiative of women.

In Bangladesh, one of the Asian countries with the lowest level of human development, the subsistence economy is a reality of life for many families. More than 45% of the population, about 65 million people out of a total of 150 million, suffer from hunger. And it is mainly tribal minorities who are affected by this situation.

Twenty years ago, Sujata Chicham didn't have any land where she could build a house for her family. Thanks to the work she learned in the courses she took at the center of the Salesian sisters, today she has a house and three hectares of land to cultivate. The same thing happened for Uzzala Rema, a 50-year-old mother of a family. Fifteen years ago, she was unable to support her five children, but today she says that thanks to her income from sewing she is able to support her family without problems.

The women at the center in Bhalukapara earn between 1,000 and 2,000 taka (12-24 euros) per month, on the basis of the orders received by the center, and this allows individual families a dignified standard of living, and permits them to send their children to school and to professional and occupational courses.

The presence of the Salesian sisters in the area of the parish and their efforts on behalf of the women have also led to the emergence of vocations among various young people, the children of the women who work at the center in Bhalukapara, who over the years have become priests, sisters, or catechists.

There are about 9,000 Catholics in the parish of St. Joseph, part of a community with just over 400,000 faithful in the entire country, a small minority immersed in a population that is 90% Muslim.

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