Our impact, Their voices

A woman’s place is wherever she wants it to be

In 2014, the Canadian Government teamed with the Government of Bangladesh and the ILO to fund the Bangladesh Skills for Employment and Productivity (B-SEP) Project and, through it, reach out to women of all ages – not just youth – and especially in remote and marginalized areas with skills training in non-traditional (male-dominated) occupations, followed by assistance with finding jobs that rely on those skills.

Feature | Dhaka | 30 May 2019
Dhaka (ILO news) - Mosammet never went to school. She can only read the Qur'an. When she was 17 she was married in an arranged relationship, like most of the village girls in northern Mymensingh Division. Now she is 30. Her husband abandoned her and their two children years ago.

At that time, she was forced to move back in with her parents. With no education and living in a village, her income-earning options were limited – a common story across the country. And so, she did what many women do and began a tailoring business. She had to sew day and night just to maintain a subsistence income. Over time, more women set up tailoring businesses, and it wasn’t long before Mosammet’s meagre income was dwindling due to the heavy competition, from BDT3,000 or BDT4,000 a month to BDT1,000.

A relative who owned a motorcycle servicing centre mentioned what seemed like an unusual idea at the time: Mosammet should become a motorcycle mechanic. Her relative knew of a local non-government organization offering women apprenticeship training programmes with stipends for traveling expenses.

“I have to earn for my family. I didn’t have any skills. With the help from neighbours and project support, I acquired the skill and am earning BDT5,000 a month. I’m hoping to have my own motorcycle workshop someday. I want to be an entrepreneur in the future.”- said Mosammet Shanti Begum, motorcycle mechanic.

Mosammet had never driven a motorcycle, let alone knew anything about motors. But, she felt she had no better option. She needed more income. She took to it instantly, surprising herself if not the whole village.

Now Mosammet works in her relative’s servicing centre in Madarganj bazar in Jamalpur District. It is rare in the Bangladeshi context that a woman works in a marketplace where all types of men do business. But the skill revved up her outlook on life: She doesn’t mind the grease. She is helping people. Customers are happy with her work. She is proud of what she can fix and what she can earn. And she intends to set up her own motorcycle repair workshop one day. But she still doesn’t drive a motorcycle – she remains travelling by public transport.

The Bangladesh Skills for Employment and Productivity (B-SEP) Project is an ILO project funded by the Government of Canada and carried out in close collaboration with the Government of Bangladesh. The initiative aims to make skills in Bangladesh nationally recognized, accessible to all, higher quality and directly linked to jobs.