We were all really pleased to see the coverage of the CARE Rural Sales Programme in Bangladesh (now “Jita”) in The Economist. The article offer links to both our academic article and our case study, which Catherine Dolan, Mary Johnstone-Louis, and I very much appreciate. The article mentions some of the typical criticisms aimed at the programme, but also emphasizes the way the women themselves see it: as an empowering activity, one that brings them dignity and prestige, as well as a very much needed income. We appreciate this balance as well, since it seems the benefits to the women are often lost in the ideological crossfire about this system.
Having watched Saif al-Rashid build this system since 2008, we are well aware of how difficult it has been and how much personal dedication to the betterment of the women fuels the effort. The world will never fully appreciate just how big a challenge this was.
Saif recruited these ladies from the very poorest of the poor. Many of them had been reduced to begging, all of them had children to feed. And now they not only support themselves and their families, but are full of self-confidence and pride of accomplishment. Their communities, in turn, are delighted to see the transformation.
Furthermore, the aparajitas become role models to the other women in the community, while providing a much-appreciated same-sex setting for women to shop and buy things for themselves, something they were not able to do previously.
In addition to the global packaged goods it carries, Jita also acts as a distribution channel for locally-produced objects, some of which are created by the other women in the village. We estimate that as much as two-thirds of the income being generated is from these goods, not the ones from the global MNCs.
There is an event to discuss the pros and cons of this system at the Said School on May 3. The title is “The Bottom-of-the-Pyramid Approach: Responsible Capitalism or Business as Usual?”