Saptagram is a photographic study by Shahidul Alam.
Saptagram the Seven Villages Women’s Self-Reliance Movement, is a grassroots organisation which was founded in 1976. Three hundred women, most of them illiterate, had been working on a road building project in Bangladesh. They gave their thumb-print in return for wages and then realized they had been tricked – they got lower wages than they had agreed to work for. This convinced the women of the need for education, so as to secure their basic rights and Saptagram was there to help them. Saptagram is based on the belief that women, once united, can work together for their own development. It aims to help deprived, landless women understand the causes of their poverty and oppression, to take charge of their lives and to work on income generating projects. The organisaiton is run by women for women and now, some women who have been involved as members are being employed as workers I the project. Today, Saptagram has spread to over 900 villages reaching 22,000 members.
Women’s groups consist of 25-30 members and initially they begin by identifying their problems and concerns. The group usually engages in savings and credit practices which enables them to take loans for income generating projects. E.g. rearing poultry, instlalling tubewells for water, silk production. The women also get involved in collective action to challenge injustices affecting them. Other activities undertaken include education and health awareness programmes.
“Before we did not come out for work, except to work in the houses of rich people. We are now doing earth work, selling our products in the village market, even selling things from house to house. This could not have happened before. We cold have faced punishment. Village elders could even have turned us out of the village.” Saptagram member
Seri-cultre was a sector identified by Saptagram that could provide employment for women at all stages of production and it has become one of their most comprehensive income generating projects. The project has group members involved in mulberry plantation, cultivation of sapling, nurseries and cocoon rearing.
A silk production centre was established in 1986 and reeling machines for yarn production installed. 183 women are employed in the centre and they have gained experience in reeling spinning, weaving, dyeing and twisting.