In the villages of Mymensingh’s Muktagachha upazila, a rather unusual profession has bloomed in the last few years: making wigs. What started out as some women trying to create an extra source of income, spread across the community, bringing many into the work.
Although cut human hair was once thought to be useless or even hazardous, it is now being used to make wigs, and around 400 young to elderly women in the upazila are involved in this practice.
The wigs made in Muktagachha are sold in different supermarkets in the city and exported to a number of countries, sources said.
However, all is not good. The money they get from this work does not match the women’s efforts, according to them. But despite that, many who are financially strained are choosing this work.
Sharifa Begum, who took the initiative to make this a bona fide profession in Joyda village, said she first took lessons on making wigs from her sister-in-law Yasmin Akter of adjacent Nimuria village four years ago.
Primarily, it was quite hard to weave strands of hair on the special type of cloth, but it has become easy after practising for the last four years, said 30-year-old Sharifa.
Now she takes orders from another sister-in-law Rokeya Begum of Mondolsen village.
Sharifa, a mother of two children, said they get Tk 350-600 for every wig, depending on size and quality. The price is not satisfactory, and a good sized product needs three to four days to complete, she said.
Noorjahan Akter, a first-year Alim student at a local madrasa, said she has been involved in the profession as part-time work for the last two years to support her poor family.
Earlier, she used to get Tk 1,000 on average per month, but now it’s Tk 3,000. Still the income does now sync up with the amount of hard work it takes to make wigs, said Noorjahan.
“My father Nurul Islam is an auto-rickshaw driver, and it’s difficult for him to run the four-member family. I’ve been supporting them by making wigs.”
Sumi Akter, a Secondary School Certificate examinee, said she has been working for the last two years to support her father, a vegetable vendor.
Eighth-grader Nurun Nahar said she started making wigs since last month to support her four-member family, as her father died recently.
Rina Akter, a 22-year-old mother of one, said her husband is a day labourer, and to support her family, she has been making wigs for the last three years.
The workers said they can make them at home, while also doing household chores. It is a welcome income source for them, as they have no opportunity to work outside their homes.
The work is not popular yet, but many women are coming to learn the job and tackle poverty, they said.
Workers said the hair and other essentials for making wigs comes from one Mizanur Rahman Sujon, a middleman.
Talking to this correspondent, Sujon said he has engaged some 250 women in this work in Muktagachha and Trishal of Mymensingh, and Manikganj.
Sujon said the wigs are sold at different shopping malls of Dhaka. They are also exported to different countries including India, Pakistan, Australia and Indonesia.
Asked about the price of wigs in national and international markets and whether it is matching the workers’ payment, Sujon avoided the questions.
The demand for wigs is increasing in and outside the country, and it could be a profession for hundreds of women, if reasonable remuneration is given to the workers, said Sarwar Islam Ripon, a local journalist.
Abdullah Al Mansur, upazila nirbahi officer of Muktagachha, said making wigs could be made into a cottage industry, if departments concerned provide necessary support to the poor workers.
This business also has significant export potential, the UNO said.