One of the things we have focused on from the start with Samunnat is sustainability. Much of what Samunnat does is ably handled by the locals. The education arm, the legal assistance, the counselling etc is all done by Jhapa residents. The jewelry production is probably the only area where there has been any reliance on a non-Nepali.
To this end, much of what we are doing now is planning for the time when our currently resident polymer clay person is a bit less resident which will be the case in 2011. We are setting up some systems to help the ladies feel confident with dealing with some of the more administrative things like maintaining supplies and ordering before things run out (allowing for long delivery times), dealing with orders (this sometimes includes saying no), trouble shooting, pricing, quality control and product design among many other things.
In the funding proposal we mentioned in the last entry, we are asking for some money that will allow one of the ladies to travel to Kathmandu to meet face to face with the people from ACP. These meetings always prove useful and it will be great if the ladies can take a more active part. The feedback from ACP tells us what is working or not working, and what is selling or not selling. We discuss how designs could change to be more wearable or practical and we give them information about what is possible or not.
We are all very excited about using a relatively new material like polymer, incorporating some traditional designs and celebrating Nepal’s wonderful culture. Our web sales page is still a goal. Hang in there. We will get there eventually-just think in “Nepali time”.
The other thing the ladies have been very keen to do is to raise Samunnat’s profile in the local community. The Newstart program generated a lot of interest and a number of other organisations wanted to discuss the program with us. We think Newstart was unique in its scope and in the level of consultation with the ladies in developing it. The goal-setting component was also pretty special. We are doing lots of evaluation and the ladies are helping us with planning for subsequent training next years.
The other way that Samunnat is becoming known is by the local products. Our pickle ladies have established a reputation for good piro (spicy) pickles and are developing their customer base. Our tailoring ladies are going to have some more training as soon as we have raised some funds as will our computer students. All have established goals for the next six months including the specific areas of training (such as sewing school uniforms or designing wedding invitations, learning Excel etc) they think they will need to be come employed.
The local JCI women’s group has invited us to be a part of their Teej celebrations. Teej is a time when women buy jewelry and do various things, like worshipping at specific temples and fasting, to ensure their husband’s long life.
While a husband’s long life may not be such an issue for some of the Samunnat ladies, Teej has become more of a celebration of the sisterhood and we have made some gorgeous jewelry in green and red, the Teej colours, to sell in the local market. The ladies have also made keyrings and mobile phone dangly bits of their own design using some of our “learning” beads. These are selling well and it has been a great exercise in pricing and marketing!
Here’s a shot of some of the items they are making for the local market. The predominance of green and orange is no coincidence. It is Shrawan and these are the colours to wear. Fortunately we had some donations of orange clay. It is times like these when “A Colourful Journey” is a particularly apt name!