Gultaz Beats the Odds

Oct 06, 2016
By Golam Ehsanul Habib; Edited by Katie Hackett

Once unable to read or write, baffled by basic arithmetic and hiding the truth, Gultaz has changed her family's fate and given her children a chance to dream.

Her success hasn't been easy. Soon after their marriage nearly three decades ago, Gultaz's husband was injured in a terrible cyclone. As a day labourer, it became nearly impossible for him to work and she was left struggling to care for the family on her own.

"Our whole family only saw darkness around us," Gultaz says. "My three children were crying for food and growing up malnourished. Sometimes, we had no food at all for one to two days."

Gultaz didn't complain and hid the deepening crisis from relatives, fearing they would judge her husband for not providing for his family. Years passed this way.

When World Vision partnered with their community, Gultaz joined a development group. But because she couldn't read or write, she was excluded by the other members. Motivated by that rejection, Gultaz took and passed an adult literacy course supported by World Vision, much to her husband's surprise.

Soon she was participating in a whole range of workshops: functional literacy, health, nutrition, embroidery and tailoring. With her tenacity, she was often at the top of her classes and used her new skills to set up a business making simple dresses. At first she was selling them door-to-door, but felt disapproval in the community since Bangladeshi women are generally expected to stay at home.

World Vision knew of Gultaz's dedication, and offered to help her build a dress shop. She named it "The Touch of a Dream" and with the support of her entire family" her husband became the record keeper and cashier" it has grown and thrived. Today Gultaz regularly employs 28 women, with 300 people involved in end-to-end processes from purchasing and packaging to marketing and distribution.

With the income, Gultaz can meet the needs of her children, who are all doing well in school and full of dreams.

Hossain, the eldest, might have ended up as a labourer like his father but is now poised to take over the family business, with plans to expand it further. He turned down a job offer in the Middle East, preferring to help with the business and be with his family.

Hossain's sister dreams of being a professional singer and his younger brother wants to become a lawyer to ensure the poor achieve their rights.

With more time for her family, Gultaz has leased a pond to breed fish and is exploring new business opportunities as well. Despite her success, she remains humble and gracious, sharing her blessings with others by training local girls in embroidery and garment-making and revealing her marketing strategies.

A neighbour, Salina Bahadur says: "Gultaz is now a symbol of an empowered woman in the community and has inspired hundreds of women to stand up and make their voices heard."