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Nearly five years ago we had some ladies making pads to sell as an income generation idea. They made and sold pads using recycled fabric. It went OK but was not the big success we hoped. Sometimes we think we have to wait to the right time for things to work. We plant seeds and can’t always decide when they will grow.
We stayed really passionate about giving older women who were using sari squares a good alternative and influencing young girls who were using ready made pads to use recyclable fabric pads. Our main objective was to save expenses for vulnerable women and to stop pollution of ready made pads. Recently one day Sarah didi gave us gift of enterprise kits made by Days for Girls. It was so good and didn’t leak like many fabric pads. There was a good information sheet for young girls about their periods. Our ladies who were sewing pads were using old fabric and old quilt covers but saw that these ones were very effective. We did some research and found that definitely girls will buy these pads even though they were more expensive to make than the ones we were making. The two young girls in our photo were very happy to buy our pads.
In talks we do all around the community, we help them to realise that every month a girl has to buy two packets of ready made pads which costs NRs 1700/- (approx AUD21…a lot for a young girl in Nepal!) but if they spend less money on the fabric pads they will last for three years! And when they use the ready made pads where do they throw them? Where is the waste all going and how much is it making pollution? Inspired by knowing that we could sell the pads, I spoke with DfG Nepal Enterprise office in Kathmandu and have visited the office. I have took our sewing ladies to Kathmandu for to see the office and we talked with them about being Enterprise of Samunnat Nepal ladies in Jhapa. Now DfG International accepted our application and we will start the training so soon. We are very excited about this partnership with DfG and the training and support we will have from them.
Some time ago, we decided to help some ladies start a small business called Care at Home. This was to provide a service we saw was needed and to create employment opportunities for our ladies who come to Samunnat seeking their rights. We researched and know that women are vulnerable to many problems because they do not have independent income. We are always thinking about sustainable ideas for jobs and we saw that there was a need for people to take care of the senior parents in a family because so many young people are working overseas. We saw there was a need by senior citizens left behind by their children. [Ironically, many young Nepali people working overseas are taking care of our older people in those countries!] We did some planning and training in first aid and health matters and gave people the information about our service.
We visited several senior citizens’ homes including one near a pilgrimage site near a river bank in our district. Senior people think it will be an advantage to them spiritually to die near these holy places. I could not bear to sit there for more than half an hour because of all the mosquitoes! Their accommodation was so dark and suffocating with no fresh air circulating. When we visited, the people thought that we were doctors and started to tell us about their illnesses. There were 60 male and female senior citizens.
They had many problems with eyesight, diabetes and gastritis, kidneys etc. We are not doctors but we could share with them some basic information about using antibiotics appropriately [a huge problem in Nepal!], eating good healthy food and taking some regular small walks. The major problem was with eyesight so we are talking with our local eye hospital to see if they will bring them some eye treatment. We are also hoping to arrange spraying for mosquitoes.
Thinking about how to solve some of our problems has opened our eyes to another group in our community with problems. Maybe we can help each other.
And our final instalment about the Colourful Journey!
Sano Rita: I loved their simplicity, honesty and friendliness. Our love went two ways. It was fun wrapping them in sari and putting make up on their face and mehendi (Henna) on their palms. My friend, Kate looked so beautiful in her sari. She is very lovely and has a beautiful voice when she speaks and sings. We both danced. I love her.
Bishnu: It was a very special time with our visitors. Mainly I want to thank them because they love me very much. I am not very good in English or in making beads but they encouraged me. I had a long time wish to buy myself some gold earrings. I was saving up my money slowly to buy my earrings. I do not have family to buy my gold earrings. When Kopila told them my saving and plan, they were like angels and took me to the goldsmith and bought me some earrings. Thank you lovely friends.
Sita: It was a special day of preparing welcoming speeches in English which was like very hard to me although I am not a good talker in English. I was planning and practising sentences for talking but in front of them felt very nervous. But I think I introduced myself in good English! My friend was also very helpful and patient and lovely.
Gita: Firstly, I am not good in English and nervous of talking. But as I have practised, my friend said I spoke very nicely. I loved their concentration and enthusiastic energy of learning how to make beads. Overall, they were very close to us and we are too. Love you all!
Ambika: When the visitors arrived were were ready with our Spice Bangle class. After welcomes we had our introduction and I was very happy when some of them spoke in Nepali. I was very happy and keen to meet our visitors and had lots of curiousness about teaching them. I was thinking some of them might be very good in making polymer beads and I was right because some of them were very good artists. I learnt many positive things from them and it was a very wonderful time!
The time that the ladies spend with the travellers is one of respectful, joyful and dignified exchange. The ladies are proud that they have skills and talents to share. They love that it is a two way exchange.
Continued reflections on the Colourful Journey trip…
Dipa: My friend Lyn was very friendly. She was very excited and energetic. In our class I tried to understand English with expression but I didn’t always understand lots of things that she said. But the main things that she was very friendly and lovely to me even without us speaking the same language.
Anu: My friend was Sharon and I loved her focussing on her work in class. She was hard working. I learned that we need to concentrate on our creations. At the end of our visitors day we had a very lovely picnic and we got plenty of time to know each other. We realised that women who are united have power!
Sunita: It was a very fun and lovely time with our visitors. I am little bit shy person but during their stay I have learnt so many openness and being compassionate. I have learnt making friends from overseas even when we can’t speak same language. Thank you for accepting me to be your friend.
Sharmila: It was a very effective learning of making friends and welcoming our visitors. They were such lovely, clean hearted and helpful personalities and the very impressive thing for me was they were energetic and adjustable in any situations. I feel they were so open and did not have prejudices of us or expectations. It was beautiful two way of giving love.
Tomorrow, more ladies will talk about how this experience was for them.
Every year, a group of travellers visit the ladies of Samunnat as part of the Colourful Journey. In this trip which is led by Bishnu Rai of Himalayan Sunrise and our own Wendy didi, the ladies travelled on the road less travelled to places on eastern Nepal where many tourists don’t go! It is a wonderful time of sharing and often a highlight of the trip for people. They have a polymer clay lesson from the Samunnat ladies and we all have a picnic together. Kopila asked the Samunnat ladies to talk about the visit from their eyes! All the ladies had plenty to say so this post will be in several parts. Kopila has translated the Nepali originals.
Manisha: First we were a little nervous because we were going to welcome our guests in English. We have practise some lines many times. I was thinking to talk in English in our polymer clay class too. As with all the Colourful Journeys, our guests were very friendly. When we were in the polymer teaching class, we sat next to one participant. I was a little nervous with my mixed up Nepali English but I felt very relief to have Wendy didi close to me. Each of our guests were very friendly and lovely. We exchange our laughter and our pain. We laughed and enjoyed their 4 days stay and we each other cried when they went. But their love and affection is in my heart!
Pramila: We were all ladies getting ready to welcome them with flowers and khadha (ceremonial scarves). My task was to write a welcoming banner. I did it with so much excitement. I was looking forward to see who will be my colleague and I did try myself speaking English in front of Kopila didi many times. Every morning we greeted each other in English before the visitors arrived. It was really exciting to be together for the few days with our guests. We have this beautiful tradition of worshipping our guests as a god. Each of us did try to speak but our guests were so easy and loving they seemed very close and helpful. We have to thank them for enjoying their stay in spite of the difficulties they had here. We hope we will stay in touch for our Samunnat journey.
Samjhana: We had done our work division and my work was to make flower bouquets with Rita, Anu and Ambika. On the day the visitors arrived, I was really nervous for my English. I am not good at English at all and I have no long schooling because of my heart operation. Hardly I could tell my name in english but it was very good to have English lessons with Sarah didi. Our visitors were very friendly and lovely. They easily learned the lesson of new spice petal bracelet and mala. We were very empowered when we have spent lots of time with them. They encouraged us and we also realised that we can be helpful with each other.