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Bangladesh: A new start for Nooreja

Meet Nooreja Begum, a self-employed businesswoman who is single-handedly supporting her two sons and her mother with the money she earns selling sweets from her ‘mobile sweet shop’.

Thanks to supporters like you, Nooreja, from the district of Jamalpur in Bangladesh, has been able to build a thriving business. She took part in a skills development training program as part of the Oxfam-supported REE-CALL project.

When her husband left the family several years ago, Nooreja was the sole income earner, scraping together a living as a day labourer. But it wasn’t enough to feed and educate her children and care for her mother.

Working as day labourer could never provide me the money I need to maintain a large family,” Nooreja said. “My sons were growing up and I wish to continue their schooling.

Bringing skill building to Bangladesh

Nooreja was always interested in cooking, and through the skills development program she learnt how to turn her hobby into income. “I had an interest for cooking from my early age,” she said. “So, when I got to know about sweetmeat making training Oxfam was going to provide, instantly I registered myself as a participant. I received the training and felt confident enough to start a small business.”

As part of the REE-CALL project, Oxfam partnered with local community organisations like Gonochetona. “I shared my thought with the staff of Gonochetona and they agreed to provide me a ‘mobile shop’ under project intervention to start my business,” Nooreja said. “Meanwhile I had borrowed some money from relatives. My total capital invest was BDT 25,000 (AUD $380).”

“I received the training and felt confident enough to start a small business.” Nooreja Begum tends her ‘mobile sweet shop’.

Now, when the school bell rings for ‘tiffin break’ at the Kushol Nagar primary school, children come running to buy Nooreja’s sweets. “My sweetmeats brings sweetest smile on these little kids’ face and what can I expect more!”

Each morning, Nooreja parks her mobile shop in front of the primary school, and she spends her evenings at the local market selling her mouth-watering sweets.

“The students like my sweets very much,” she said. “Sometimes they eat more than two or three at a time. In local market also my sweetmeat has high demand because there is no other sweetmeat shop in our locality. So, my food sells very well during the market hours. “Nowadays I’m getting order for wedding event too and selling the sweets 140 taka per kilogram.”

Nooreja is now able to save between $75 and $90 per month and recently reconstructed her home.