Coastal women becoming self-reliant by drying fish

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DHAKA, Feb 8, 2019 (BSS) – Noor Banu, a 50-year-old woman, has achieved solvency by working at “Shutki Palli” (dried fish village) in Cox’s Bazar alongside maintaining her family.

Not only Noor Banu, many other women like her are earning their livelihood by working at Nazirartek Shutki Palli in this coastal strip.

Concerned people said a huge number of women have become self-reliant by working shoulder-to-shoulder with men in what is known as “Shutki Palli”.

Nazirartek Shutki Palli has been established on about 500 acres of land on the bank of sea, five kilometres away from Cox’s Bazar tourist town. Nearly 40,000 workers, mostly females, are working in the Shutki Palli and they do all works from drying fish to packaging.

Noor Banu of Samity Para in Cox’s Bazar town is one of the workers. She runs her family with the husband, two daughters and a disabled son. Her husbands sells various kinds of toys in the sea beach. After finishing family works, she gives time to the Shutki Palli.

Talking to this correspondent, Noor Banu said she started work in the Shutki Palli four years back to help her husband. At the beginning, she used to receive Taka 150 as the daily wages, which now increased to Taka 250. “My work starts from the dawn and continues till the sunset. But I’m very much happy for playing a role in earning money for our family,” she said.

Like Noor Banu, Arifa Begum, an inhabitant of Kutubdiapara, also works in the Shutki Palli.

Arifa, who joined the village with Noor Banu’s cooperation, said she earns Taka 250 every day by working in the village. “Though the amount of my daily wage is less than any male, then it brought some solvency for ours,” she said.

Arifa said: “The males work throughout the day and we also work in the same manner. But we get half of the wages from the men.”

She continued:” Not only us, there are many women workers whose husbands left by abandoning them, while some passed away. So we’re doing this work to hold the steering of the family … we’re passing days in this way.”

It was learnt that not only in Nazirartek, Shutki production started in different sea banks from October. Raw fishes are turned into shutki in sun heat by spreading the fishes on specially-built bamboo loft.

Shutki is made from more than 40 species of small and large fishes caught in the Bay of Bengal. Besides the Sonadia Island, there are many small and large Shutki villages in different areas of Cox’s Bazar.

Sakhina Begum was passing a busy time in drying Shutki in Sonadia Island. In the gap of the work, she talked to this correspondent about the process of Shutki production.

She said they are given Taka 300 as daily wages through which they run their family.

“Though my husband earlier caught fishes in the ocean, now he sells various souvenirs made of snails in the sea beach,” she said.

Sakhina continued: “Previously we did hard struggle to run our family as I didn’t do any work and my opinion was not given priority in any work of our family.” “But now the situation has changed remarkably as I earn money and run family together which helped removing our hardship to a great extent,” she said. Labour leader of Nazirartek Shutki Palli Md Kaisar Ullah said the women workers work more carefully in comparison with the males, but they earn less.

“The male workers get Taka 400-500, on the other hand, the females get Taka 250-350,” he said.

Concerned said not only of Cox’s Bazar, a huge amount of raw fishes are brought in the Shutki Palli from Chittagong also every year because of favourable (salty) weather.

President of Nazirartek Shutki Byabsayee Bohumukhi Somobaya Samity Md Atik Ullah said nearly 20,000 MT Shutki including fish powder are produced in the Shutki Palli in every season and its market price is about Taka 200 crore.

He said Shutki is produced for nine months of the year except the monsoon. There are nearly 1000 arats (wholesale shops) in this Shutki Pall and they are also exporting Shutki abroad after meeting domestic demand.

When contacted, District Fisheries Officer Dr Abdul Alim said Shutki is produced through the small fishes extracted from the Bay of Bengal.

He said not only Cox’s Bazar, the demand of the people of different areas of the country including Dhaka, Chittagong, Rajshahi is being met.

“A significant portion of Shutki produced here is being exported abroad through which the country earns foreign currency of Taka 30 to 35 crore every year,” Dr Alim added.

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