The Carpet Workshop started as a small project of the Community Centre for the Handicapped. This centre, the very first in the area for disabled people, was established 1997 by the Brothers of Taizé in Mymensingh. The idea was that this workshop would ensure a regular income for the weavers, who are all handicapped women. This, in turn, would raise their status in the eyes of family members and members of the local society. Women are often disregarded in the Bangladeshi society, and handicapped women are among its most vulnerable members. They are often considered a burden for their family. To provide an income is therefore to make a considerable change in their lives possible. The Workshop eventually became a branch of the “Women’s Club” that the Community Centre runs, and where a number of disabled women are producing clothes, bags and other items.
From the beginning of 2008, the Carpet Workshop is located in a new house. At present, there are fourteen women working in the Carpet workshop together, Muslims, Hindus and Christians. Half of the weavers are deaf and mute and communicate by signs. The women chosen for this work come from disadvantaged families or are alone, abandoned or for some other reason exposed.
Bangladesh does not have an indigenous tradition of carpet making, being a hot and humid country, but it has a rich heritage of textile work and designs that fits in with the production of rugs and carpets. The Workshop draws from this heritage in its designs.
It takes between two weeks and one and a half month to produce a carpet, depending on the size and the complexity of the design. The carpets produced are of two kinds, flat woven rugs and pile carpets. The size will not exceed 6 feet in width.
The Workshop has found a limited market among the more wealthy segments of society inDhaka, the capital. The carpets are sold mainly at special fairs, held twice a year, but also occasionally to visiting persons. From time to time we receive an order from abroad, but this is exceptional.
The weavers are paid by square foot (the metric system is still not universally used inBangladesh). They are put into production after six months of training, during which they receive a small salary. Whereas an uneducated woman in Bangladesh can rarely hope for more than 500-600 taka a month, a skilled weaver can earn up to 2 500 taka a month. But it is equally important to the weavers that they can leave their homes every day and come to a place where they feel useful and are appreciated.