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Monday, 27 May 2013 09:48
Happy Bananas
Written by Paola

When I first learnt about Hathay Bunano, I misheard the name as 'Happy Bananas.' And when I visited with a few friends earlier this week, we all agreed that it is indeed a happy place.

Rayhan, the Operations Manager, greeted us in his office, and gave us a short presentation on the organization, from its origins in 2004, when Samantha taught a few rural women to knit, to the present day, with its 63 centres, sixty of which are in rural areas, and work force of 6,000.

As we toured the building, we learnt all about the production of Pebble knitted toys, from Samantha's designs in Dhaka, to the work in villages, to the packing and export.

A group of women sat working on their crochet. Two or three small played near them.  Other women knitted at tables, or put finishing touches on toys knitted in the rural centres. A young woman sewed on the Pebble labels by hand.

'Hathay Bunano means hand-made,' Rayhan told us. 'Everything is made by hand, except our new rag doll range.' Every room we visited was quiet, apart from the cheery chatter of the women and the gentle whir of fans. There are few machines at Hathay Bunano, and the working areas are spacious and cool.

We visited a pre-school class, attended by workers' children .  To our delight, a small boy stood up and proudly sang 'Twinkle, twinkle, little star'.

In another room, three disabled women knitted. 'They have joined us from the Centre for Rehabilitation of the Paralysed,' Rayhan said. ' They can work comfortably in this room. Nursing mothers also come in here to feed their babies.'

Hathay Bunano is a far cry from the horror stories that have been published recently about workers and working conditions in Bangladesh. And, as always in this country, we were welcomed with wide, warm smiles.

Perhaps Samantha could design a banana rattle with a happy face. Happy Bananas!

Paola, Dhaka

Monday, 20 May 2013 09:50
Organic Cotton
Written by Pebble

For the past 3 years we have had a few organic cotton items in the Pebble range but from June 2013 we are bringing out a complete 100% organic cotton catalogue with new colours and lots of nice new toys, rattles, blankets and hats.

Our organic cotton has been certified by the Control Union Certifications of The Netherlands and complies with the Organic Exchange 100 Standard (OE100). OE100 certifies products made with 100% organic fibre that have been tracked through the production chain and segregated to prevent commingling with other fibres.

We are happy at Pebble to make products that are fair trade, hand made and organic.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013 05:24
Rag dolls – A new addition to the Pebble range
Written by Samantha

We've been having a lot of fun in the sample room making a completely new product for Pebble - rag dolls. A selection of three rag dolls will be available from the June catalogue this year and we hope you will like them as much as we've been having fun making them. They are very much Pebble rag dolls and feature crochet hair and accessories.

The face was taken from a doll I lovingly made myself at the tender age of 8! I still have that doll - her name is Molly and she sits around in our home in Dhaka. After nearly 4 decades I still think her face is beautiful and absolutely ideal for a Pebble rag doll. Making dolls is a new skill for the Hathay Bunano ladies and I've had a lot of fun in the past couple of weeks teaching these skills. I've been teaching both the sewing construction and the pattern making and its great to work with women who are so eager and interested to learn new skills. When Hathay Bunano first started in 2004 I used to do all the training but over time we developed teams of trainers and I then was able to take a back seat on training, and so it's been fun for me to be back in the teaching role and hands-on. I'm going to call these three dolls Elsa, Ruby and Emily.


Monday, 20 February 2012 05:56
UN Global Compact
Written by Samantha

Hathay Bunano is proud to be a member of the UN Global Compact. The United Nations Global Compact is a strategic policy initiative for businesses that are committed to aligning their operations and strategies with ten universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption. That sounds like a lot of talk but more broadly the idea is to encourage more businesses to follow the ten principles and to catalyse actions in support of broader UN goals such as the Millenium Development Goals.

Hathay Bunano works hard in particular towards MDG1 - to end poverty and hunger, by creating employment in rural areas where there is very little and during some seasons, no alternative employment. We aim to take work to the people and to operate in areas where women live and where there is no industry or employment at all. For example, we work in the far North of Bangladesh, in Dinajpur and Chilmari where access is difficult and its an 11 hour drive from Dhaka and the only alternative employment is agricultural work. Similarly we work on char islands which are in the river and surrounded by water, where there is no work at all and the inhabitants need 3tk for the boat ride every time they need to go to the mainland. In these cases we take work to the women and set up centres on those islands rather than expecting them to travel for their work.

The MDGs are very much interconnected in our work. By working hard towards MDG1 - to end poverty and hunger, we are also working towards MDG2 - for universal education, MDG4 - for child health and MDG5 - for maternal health. By creating employment in these remote locations and increasing household incomes, families are able to send their children to school and feed their children more nutritious food. By working to end poverty and hunger many other problems within these poor and remote locations can also be benefitted.

You can read more about the ten principles here:

We encourage all companies to take part in the UN Global Compact so that we can all work together to end poverty in this world.


Tuesday, 19 July 2011 04:21
Yunus: 'Job creation is the solution to poverty'
Written by Samantha

In the Guardian today Muhammed Yunus has said 'Job creation is the solution to poverty'. (The Guardian: Yunus). At Hathay Bunano we couldn't agree more. I was delighted to read this article this morning where Yunus so clearly advocates job creation as a solution to poverty but also goes on to say 'Loans should only be given to fund enterprises. They mustn't ever be used for 'consumption smoothing' or how can people pay back the loans? It has to be about income generation.' It reminds me very much of an article I wrote for the Daily Star newspaper in Bangladesh back in February 2009 (Daily Star: Business to fight poverty) at a time when micro-finance was still very much seen as a silver bullet regardless of how the recipients were using it.

I first met Muhammed Yunus about 6 years ago, not long after Hathay Bunano had started. I had always held him in very high regard and was delighted to be able to spend some time discussing ideas with him. Interestingly Yunus' opinion back then was just the same as he has expressed in the article in the Guardian today and yet it was of some concern to both of us that this was not the story that always came out. The world wanted a 'silver bullet'. In the article he claims the media built it up, but I have always thought that it was not just the media but also the international development agencies who were so keen for a quick fix with low overheads. Development projects generally run for 18 months or 3 years and in rare cases only a little longer and metrics (measuring the success or failure of the project ) start earlier than that and so there is this compulsion within the development arena to demonstrate success in an unrealistically short time frame. I remember once reading that Stella McCartney had said that it takes 10 years for a fashion brand to become profitable. Whilst we see these days businesses propelled to stellar heights of company value very quickly, in reality it takes time to grow a profitable business and this is equally true when growing a business in a developing country in challenging conditions. The push for quick success changed the headline.

I agree entirely with Yunus that job creation is the solution to poverty. At Hathay Bunano we make products by hand because it takes longer than making them by machine. We are thereby creating employment without excessively contributing to consumerism and the 'throw away' culture. Pebble toys are made to last through this generation and beyond. We like to think that they will be the toy that families will keep for the next generation and every Pebble toy is creating much needed rural and local employment for women in Bangladesh: creating employment that is within a few minutes walk of women's homes and helping to not only support families but to keep them together and stem the tide of economic migration.

It's great to read Yunus' ideas so clearly and accurately written.


Friday, 13 May 2011 05:27
What is fair trade?
Written by Samantha

Fair trade is about helping producers in developing countries through a market based approach. It is about guaranteeing that standards are being implemented regarding working conditions, wages, child labour and the environment. Hathay Bunano is a member of the Ecota Fair Trade Forum, the body for Fair Trade in Bangladesh, which is a member of the World Fair Trade Forum. Hathay Bunano can therefore be described as a Fair Trade Organisation.

There's lots of background on Fair Trade on Wikipedia

But for us it's more than just meeting the standards that are set. It's about helping women so that they can work and providing the support they need to enable them to be able to work. Whilst the vast majority of our production centres are in villages in rural locations, we also have a centre in a slum area of Dhaka and here we have a creche and a pre-school so that women with children can bring their children with them and they will be cared for and educated while their mothers are working. It's about having a doctor associated with the centres so that women can access reliable healthcare when they need it. It's about helping women get their children into school when they are old enough to go; helping them fill out the forms if they are illiterate or semi-literate and going with them to the school to ensure the application is safely received and processed. It's about using the facilities we have to help them, like downloading and printing the school books for them from our head office at the beginning of the school year. It's about being there for the women when they need a little extra help and support whilst at the same time respecting their choices.

Friday, 13 May 2011 04:27
How it all started
Written by Samantha

Hathay Bunano is not the work of just one woman, but is the work of many thousands of women all over Bangladesh.

It all started in 2004 when shortly after moving to Bangladesh I realised that it was part of my responsibility in this society to try to do something to help the poor.    Having two small children of my own, I was struck by the way economic migration within the country could pull families apart and so wanted to try to create employment that women would be able to do within their villages, staying with their families and their children. It seemed to me that we could learn from the things that were good within the garments industry in Bangladesh and apply this to a much more flexible working system within the villages. So I started to teach a few women to knit.

The first rural knitting courses I taught were in Narshingdi, about two and a half hours drive from Dhaka. I would travel out daily to begin with and sit cross-legged on the floor in a rural tin building and teach knitting while the women taught me Bangla.   Sharing made the learning fun. By becoming part of their communities and learning about their lives I became increasingly convinced that rural production opportunities were necessary. By arranging rural production centres, just basic village buildings that we rented, it was possible to create quality control procedures and ongoing learning processes enabling us to produce the toys we now make for Pebble.

The concept behind Hathay Bunano came from those early encounters when I was welcomed into village life in Bangladesh and learnt that what the women wanted was fairly paid, good quality, flexible and local employment that was regular and sustainable. Isn't that what we all want? Work that is sufficiently flexible that we can take a day off when our child is sick, that is only 5-10 minutes walk from our home so that we don't waste time travelling, that is regular so that we can plan and save.    And in the villages flexibility is also important so that the work fits in with the agricultural seasons, so that at harvest time wives can help their husbands in the fields and during the floods when there is no agricultural work, wives are able to support the family.

Hathay Bunano is testament to the amazing artisans who have built it.

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