Posted 03 September 2011, by Staff (The Himalayan News Service), The Himalayan Times, thehimalayantimes.com
HIMALAYAN NEWS SERVICE
KATHMANDU: Making doughnut may not sound like an intricate job, but a woman’s livelihood can depend on it! This persists in the society and by making and selling doughnuts a group of unprivileged woman sustain. Such women are trained at Women Entrepreneurs Association of Nepal (WEAN), a voluntary and non-profit organisation located at Ghattekulo.
And many might take this as an amazing example of women empowerment but the fact is there is much struggle these women have to go through. Take for examples the 20 women who just finished their training.
After the training, the doughnuts they make have to pass the quality test. But according to Meena Karki, Chief Programme Coordinator at WEAN the ‘higher caste’ women of the group itself taste these doughnuts only after washing them, because apparently it has been touched by the other ‘lower caste’ women of the group.
This is just one instance of how the struggle for woman never ends. There are numerous challenges a woman faces while trying to be independent. Unfortunately, the biggest challenge is her existence in a patriarchal society. The cultural and political influences are other hindrances. Moreover, globalisation also gives them tough competition and they have to struggle hard for their existence in the world market.
Their story of survival
Laxmi Kumari who works as a staff at Sahara Foundation, Chauni, a non-profit social organisation and cottage industry, is a single mother of a son. She is originally from Dhading and it’s been five years she is living in Kathmandu. After her husband married another woman she was forced to leave the house with the new born child. She came to Kathmandu with her neighbour who promised her a good job. But his intention was to exploit her. Kumari shares, “I had to do domestic work from 4:00 am to 12:00 am and my salary was Rs 1,000 which was not enough. I tried a lot to get out from there, but was not able to do so. It’s been one year I’m out from that hell and Sahara Foundation helped me sustain.”
The foundation trains women in trouble, like Kumari in making pickle, candle and accessories made of pote (beads) in Kathmandu district. Kumari now works at the foundation from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm as a candle maker. She is now able to pay for her rent and her child’s education.
Similarly, Laxmi Maharjan has knitting skills and Laxmi Shrestha has stitching skills. Both of these single mothers got the chance to enhance their skills at Change for Society and they are now able to sustain their life from their skills. Change for Society is a social organisation and has been training especially single women in knitting and stitching craft and has done several exhibitions in Kathmandu.
Karki from WEAN mentioned, “We are working with a vision to help other women so that they can set up new business enterprises.” This initiation was taken by a group of prominent Nepali women entrepreneurs. According to Ramva Shrestha chief of microcredit committee of WEAN, it received permission from Nepal Rastra Bank to act as a Micro Financial Intermediary in 2005 and works in four districts namely Kathmandu, Lalitpur, Bhaktapur and Raswa.
Shrestha further said, “This programme has helped 1,301 members out of total 1,590 to become financially independent. The members are actively working as entrepreneurs who deal with production of dairy items, candle, papad, soap, pickle and mushroom et cetera”.
Rita Operational Women Group with six members at Salyanthan, Kritipur has been trained by WEAN in Papad making. All of the six members are are educated and married and have a registered company named Baghbairabh Food Products Pvt Ltd. They produce items like papad, candy, pickle and jam. Modi Kumari Acharya, president of the group shares, “With our family’s support and encouragement we started our business and from our experience we found these kinds of work is also good source of income and can support a family. This is also form of self employment.”
Acharya shares, “It was difficult to convince the market about our products being of good quality. Our brand has to compete with popular foreign brands.”
Furthermore, Karki adds, “If one wants to start a business, she has to start from scratch because they have nowhere to go and nobody is willing to extend a helping hand.”
Sharing her experience of facing different obstacles she mentioned how she faced caste discrimination while she was training women in rural area. “Women from so called higher caste did not want to work with lower caste women. Women of certain caste were unable to work for the group to finish a target due to family responsibilities, where they had to accompany their husbands for several days”.
Another reason for failing to reach certain target is illustrated by Shrestha, “The leader of the group would join political parties, moving away from the group. This resulted in lack of leadership demoralising the group members and they couldn’t channelise their skill. Also people’s support to different political parties would create the rift.”
Likewise, Kabita Manandhar, president of Sahara Foundation shares, “Marketing of the product and lack of confidence to interact with others became a challenge for us.”
And, Bhagawati Joshi, president of Change for Society shares, “Due to the technological advances there are very few women interested in things like knitting and stitching.” Despite numerous hurdles these women have been working towards the path of progress taking every obstacle as an opportunity to flourish. They are determined to create an impact in the society by showing that women can sustain on their own and even support their family.