Prokritee: Promoting Bangladeshi Handicrafts

With its central office located in the city of Dhaka, Prokritee is a service-based agency that was created by the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) in 2001 to manage eight handicraft enterprises in Bangladesh by providing various supporting services to market their products in both local and foreign markets according to international Fair Trade standards. These eight enterprises offer poor rural women who are heads of their households the opportunity to earn an income and help their children to get an education, thereby improving the standard of living for their families and giving them hope for a brighter future.

Set up in different regions of the country, each of the eight enterprises is overseen by a project manager, who in turn is assisted by a Producer Management Committee. The design department at Prokritee assists the enterprises to identify the needs of the customers and develop products to meet those needs, while at the same time reflecting the unique cultural heritage of Bangladesh. The marketing department of Prokritee ensures the completed products reach local and international customers.

As the name suggests, Surjosnato Coconut Products focuses on producing sun-dried coconut, using fibers from the discarded husk to make ropes for door mats, floor mats and decorative wall hangings. Based in the Ramganj area of Bangladesh’s Laxmipur District, Surjosnato Coconut Products has been operating since 1977. The riverside village of Bagdha in the Barisal District is home to Bagdha Enterprise which has been operating since 1982. The women of Bagdha Enterprise make jute and hemp rope and twine in a multitude of colors, as well as twine products and carved wooden toys. Jobarpar Enterprise in Barisal District‘s Agailjhara region started off with processing coconut and making twine products, but these did not prove to be profitable. So after five years or so, the women started using water hyacinth to create handmade paper and twine, from which they make woven baskets and other items. Biborton Handmade Paper Project in Agailjhara was started in 1993 and also use water hyacinth to make paper from which they produce greeting cards, photo frames, photo albums and other products. Not only has this been profitable for the two groups, the women have helped in removing a weed that clogs up the country‚Äôs waterways.

In the town of Feni, Shuktara Handmade Paper Projects began production of paper in 1989, primarily using jute from which they fashion gift boxes, stationery sets, photo albums and a range of other useful and decorative items. Bonoful Handmade Paper Products is located in Muktagacha of Mymensingh district, producing paper out of pineapple leaves, hemp, wheat-straw and the garment industry’s cotton waste. The enterprise has been running since 1995 and produces a popular range of greeting cards, gift bags, photo albums and related items. The women of Keya Palm Handicrafts in the Barisal region use palm and keya leaves to weave baskets, bracelets, napkin rings, and more.