Rabiul was a partner in a small business making garments. When it closed down, he found himself with no work, no income and no way of paying for food and rent – or supporting Rumi and their baby daughter.
Rumi started to look for a job and approached Swajan. "It was important at that time that I had money for our family. I was looking for a job and that is why I came here. It would have been very difficult without the money that I earn."
After a short training course in appliqué and embroidery, Rumi joined Swajan and has been working there for three years. The flexible arrangements mean that she can look after her family, which is especially important now she has two children.
With Rumi in a steady job, her husband has been able to take out a loan to open a small grocery shop close to where they live. They are steadily paying off the loan and both feel optimistic about the future.
"I opened my grocery shop two years ago," Rabiul said. "It is a new area and the sales at the moment are not enough, although they are improving. But to maintain my family, I need Rumi’s income too."
"I feel very happy and secure working at Swajan," Rumi says. "Now I am thinking of sending my four-year-old daughter to school."
Swajan aims to provide high-quality Bangladeshi handicrafts, which can compete in the global marketplace, and to improve the quality of life of its producers in poor urban areas and remote villages.
At Swajan, the centuries-old craft of papermaking is combined with another of Bangladesh’s famous traditions, embroidery, to create beautifully decorated, handmade paper cards.
Swajan is a private business, started in the late 1990s, to provide work for women’s groups. Now, about 850 women do embroidery in both rural and urban areas. The paper comes from Prokritee, another fair trade organisation giving work to disadvantaged women.