These four gorgeous women – Pramila, Sita, Samjhana and Rita- have all just been on a big adventure. Last month, the wonderful artists from the Orkney retreat at Shrinemont made us a very generous donation. The ladies decided to use some of the money to travel to Kathmandu, a 20+ hour bus trip…a challenge. For a long time, we have wanted to visit Thimi Ceramics, to learn about their wonderfully run organisation. Then we were invited to attend the launch of Nepali Menstrupedia. Quite some time ago, we were researching ways to best get information about sexual health and menstruation to our community. We discovered that an Indian publication was being translated by an organisation called Putali and we contacted them and asked to be kept informed about the progress. We were invited to the launch of the books which included the screening of a movie about chaupadi where women are banished from the home while they have their periods and every Winter, women die from exposure as a result.
Read what the ladies said about their trip.
We thought the Program of Putali Nepal was very good because it made us aware of our health and safety. We did not know everything about our menstruation. The organization has developed a comic book for all the teenage girls but it was very helpful to us too. We will read this book to our little sisters too.
(This photo at the right shows the ladies showing some of our jewellery at the launch! People were very interested in what they wore!)
The program was so special because the organizer of the program arranged the taxi for us to go back to the hotel because it was very late for us after the event. We learned why women in the western part of Nepal are so vulnerable when they got their period. They have to stay in the cowshed during the period and this is called chaupadi. We really appreciate the work done by the organisation because the book will help every girls of our society.
We also went to Thimi Pot making place. The work they are doing is very beautiful and very creative. The management was very organized and the way they keep the pots are very Systematic. The work of Thimi was totally based on local mud and we feel if we could stayed there for some time we could easily learn more that would be good for polymer clay.
We felt very proud of our work which is very unique so we loved our work and also we admire Thimi work too. Our tour was so effective because even though we were nervous about travelling to Kathmandu, we learned to be independent. We got awareness of our menstruation and learnt from the organized work of Thimi. We all Tour group wants to thank you to Samunnat family Friends and specially the Orkney group who made this trip possible. We spent some of the donation to buy 25 of the comic books about menstruation. Thank you also to Wendy Didi for inspiration to make the trip and make an effective journey.
It is almost two years ago I attended one IPCA conference in Malta. One of the workshops of Tracy Holmes I always remember. The class was about the colour wheel. I tried to understand as much as I could but my problem was language. It was in English and I was struggling to get the clue of the colour. But in that class I started to get the sense of the colour. Two years later, last week, Wendy Didi came with the box of cards and I thought it might be the playing cards or may be some other purpose. It was the Breakthrough Colour Cards by Tracy Holmes. Wendy open the cards and started to stick on the wall and I was looking for the major colours. The first colour Cyan, then Magenta and yellow. Then our brain started to spin with these secondary colours and connecting colours. Every day we had our quiz and we try to guess the colours from the numbers and then we match the cards.
We also learned the new words from the colours like Hue, value, Tint, Shade and Tone. These words are now in our lips so we pronounce as our words like Nepali. Now where ever we see the colour we start to think what numbers they are. We thought the timber of the next door was painted with 455 and the wall 400. We had lots of fun with our lipstick, guessing the colour codes. We all choose our favourite colours and said if they were tint, tone or shade. We all liked colours in Cyan and Magenta families!
Tomorrow we are celebrating our New year 2073 so ignored the 7 and decided that 203 would be the colour of the year. We all guessed it would be a cool green Tint. We hope this colour represent the best year for us. We really don’t want another year like last year again.
We would like to give a big thank to two people who have given us so much sense of colours: Tracy Holmes and our lovely Wendy Didi who gave very easy way of explaining where we could understand very easily. Thank you very much Didi.
We have been making lots of beads like these. We love every part of making them except…the sanding! We sand in such big quantities and wanted an alternative to days and days of sanding by hand. Last week, when she came Wendy bought a vibratory tumbler in her bag to our office. It is a big purchase for us. Even though it was so well packed, it was broken from its journey. When a bad thing happens, we sometimes say Well, no one has died to keep things in perspective. We were very disappointed though. We looked all over Birtamod for parts that could replace the broken pieces but there were none. We thought we would have to keep sanding our beads with our hands for another five months.
Then Deepak, who comes to our cooperative came to help us and he looked every where. He found some springs and Wendy said they would fit. We were so nervous when we waited for the electricity to be on so we could see if the new springs worked. We all stood around and Wendy showed us how it came on when the electricity comes on. We were so happy when it was noisy and working! We put in some old, cracked beads to practise and whenever we had power, we turned the tumbler on. The beads were so smooth after many hours and we decided to put in our real beads. They were very smooth and when we polished them they look so beautiful and we are very happy. We are so grateful to Deepak for keeping on looking for what we needed. We gave him the cap that Andrew and Leah* sent us and some sweets.
*Our vibratory tumbler is this one from Aussie Sapphire Lapidary Warehouse. Andrew and Leah have been really helpful getting us set up with this and are sending some different springs which will be wonderful!
Our dear blog readers know that the polymer journeys of the ladies of Samunnat have changed lives. Tomorrow Wendy didi is coming to stay with us again and we will have many things to plan and talk about and some big things to celebrate.
We think we will have to have a party when we read the digital version of Polymer Journeys by Sage Bray. It will be the 14th April and if we have internet on that day we will be able to read it together! We are excited because some of our pieces are in the book with many other artists from all over the world.
We will be so proud and so interested to see all the other artists.
We would all like to say a very loving and happy Holi to all the people who read our blog and send us love and good wishes and encouragement. You are the people who put the colour into our life and we are very happy! Holi is celebrated on the day after the full moon in the month of Phalgun and it is a day of merrymaking. It is to celebrate the start of Spring and various events in Hindu mythology. We played with the colours and had lots of fun as you can see from this photo where we are all waving to you.
It was a specially happy Holi for one of our newest bahini haru. She had been having a very difficult time. She had been given in an arranged marriage to a man with abnormal behaviours. She was alone and isolated in his house and very vulnerable. When she returned so frightened to her own home, she was not treated well by her sister-in-law. She was alone and could trust no-one. She always looked so sad and scared. Even when she first came to Samunnat office, she could not trust us and every time she cries and her eyes would get wet.
But after meeting and staying with the ladies of Samunnat she flourished and laughed when she got admitted into a highly reputed beauty parlour training and she is really really happy. We think you can feel it even from her photo.
Recently a friend from Durgapur, a town west of us, asked me to give a one day advocacy class. She wanted me to tell about the work of Samunnat and the help that Samunnat could give to women in her area who were in situations of violence. I didn’t just want to talk about violence but about empowering ALL women to help one another.
The lady was the President of the local JCI group and she organised the hall and khaja (snacks). We invited women from all around the area of Surungar which is 15 kms away from our office. I decided to discuss three topics related to women’s rights and asked three of my colleagues to help me. We had my lawyer friend, Bhim; my entrepreneur friend, Sabitra; and myself. We were so surprised by how many people were interested in the topics of the class. I didn’t want it to be boring but useful and realistic. I hadn’t expected that the number of participants would be this many!
The first hour Bhim told the women about property rights of women in Nepal. It was very interactive. The women could talk about their problems and understanding the law of the courts.
The second hour we played a Brainstorming Game which the women enjoyed very much. Sabitra gave the women ideas about how to start their own home based income businesses and earn the income. She talked about how they could sell vegetables, milk, dhoop (incense) and home made pickles.
In the last hour, I talked about the laws against domestic violence and described how our bahini-haru (sisters) are fighting together so bravely. I heartily requested them that if they wanted to do something for women that we had to stand together and start with helping each other and loving each other. Not thinking big things to make our selves bigger. I said, Let’s get ready and tell people we will tolerate no more violence against women.
The participants were so impressed and many wanted to follow up by contacting Samunnat or phone us. This is an important part of my work for Samunnat.
The day before International Womens’ Day I thought we would celebrate this event just quietly, having some snacks with the Bahini haru during Khaja (meal) time. But the next day, a friend rang me and said she was invited to a women’s program, and I changed my mind and thought we should do some thing new to celebrate.
I told the ladies not to bring their Khaja from home. For our meal, we all had Khaja from Kausila’s Khajaghar. They were very happy.We invited two ladies from different parts of the media. One was from local radio FM station and the other was a local journalist. Our main goal was to help our ladies feel free to interact with them and share what empowerment meant to them. I quietly sat and made some cards which they would choose randomly with topics they could act out or talk about, giving their views. [This is a twist on a traditional Nepali picnic activity where people choose a card randomly and act out something funny].
When the program started the ladies were very excited. We introduced ourselves and each lady chose a card and responded to what it said. Some of the tasks were very funny. Our dear Sita had to jump like a frog and Gita had to hold her hair and dance. Some were more serious with the aim to make people think. Ambika had to act as a very shy bride defending her rights against hostile in – laws. But the very good outcome was that they interacted very confidently with our invited guest. At the end of the program Kausila gave us delicious momos and we all enjoyed Sangam sweets and fruits.
Dherai ramailo thiyo! (It was very enjoyable!)
A couple of months ago you read about Kausila here. She lives with her sister, Kalpana, in the Samunnat house. Recently Kalpana had some exciting news. Kopila tells the story:
The other other day, Kalpana gave me a letter from her school and said I was invited to her school Parents Day. She was very excited and looked happy. I asked her, Why you are so happy? She answered, You come to the school first. I thought that she must have some dancing items.
On the day of the program she rang me in the morning to remind me to go to her school. I did remember the day because I wanted to make her feel happy by being present at the parents’ day. I went to the school and in the program Kalpana performed in 3 different Nepali folks songs dance. There was one I really loved and felt to cry when Kalpana danced to a song from the western part of Nepal Kalpana belongs to. In that song she looked so happy and danced full of energy.
After the dance they had prize distribution so they started calling the names in different categories. Suddenly they announced Kalpana’s name for being well disciplined. I was so happy, my joyful moment was doubled. After the program School Principal thanked me for giving them such a well disciplined student. I thanked the whole school for giving her good education. After the school function our Samunnat team congratulated Kalpana.
Here Kalpana writes: When I first came to Samunnat I was totally in different place. It takes a long time for me to feel at home because I missed everything. I am from far western part of Nepal. My family, my friends I missed. I got admitted to the English school in class 8. My friends were new but gradually things changed. Now I got my friends and my family here in Samunnat. Now I feel home in Samunnat. Before when I came home from school I felt like I am isolated. Slowly I have my friends, good teachers and Samunnat ko Didi Haru [Samunnat big sisters]. Today I like to thank you all very much for giving me this strength to get good education; to Wendy Didi and Sarah Didi and to my dear Project Didi family. Thank you very much.Danyabad
One year ago my life was trapped. I was thrown out from my in-laws house because my husband got married with another women. My parents have 4 girls and only one son and their condition was not so good so if I went back to them, it would be another burden for them. I was totally broken with no job and nowhere to go.
In the mean time I got the message that one lady came to my friend’s house and talked about training in Kathmandu for six months. I thought that might help me for at least some time. After I learned more about the lady and her organisation called Samunnat I approached there.
Every year, some ladies from Samunnat have the chance to receive income training from a Kathmandu based NGO called Aperion Nepal. If you are selected, you can choose from various type of training. I chose sewing and worked hard. I completed the course and returned to Samunnat.
Because of Samunnat, I got opportunity to start sewing business in the new building. In the beginning I only got two sewing machines but Samunnat helped me to buy three more. Today I am so confident to keep my business to run. I train 6 ladies and local people trust me to make their outfits. Now I am not relying on to anybody, not even my family. Samunnat has given me temporary accommodation and I am very happy with life. I am independent and with lots of hope and can handle my business and my life.
I have a dream and am confident that if any other lady has a problem just like me and wants training of sewing I will help.
The last phase of our building was our cow shed. Once that was finished, we could bring our cows to our home. Cows have a very different life in Nepal and Kopila asked Kausila to describe her feelings about having a cow and how she looks after it. Soon this cow will be joined by Bishnu and her cow. Part of Kausila’s story has been omitted at her request. Suffice it to say, she is a very brave woman.
Kausila says: I really love my cow these days. I am grown up in far western part of Nepal. I haven’t gone to school and my childhood was spent looking after cows and the buffaloes. When I was 13 years old, I got married to a man who was already got married two times and twice times bigger than me. My life was ruined when I came to my in-laws house. After having 2 children I knew that I was only slave of my husband and my in-laws. They keep me doing their work and don’t want me to improve myself so they kick me out from their house.
Now I am in Samunnat fighting for my rights and I also have my sister Kalpana. She is studying in class 8 funded by our dearest Sarah Bartram’s project called Project Didi. I am very grateful to her and the project. Kalpana is studing very hard. She is also very happy.
Now my days are spending with full of joy.We have our cow named THOULI which means BIG because next one is also coming.
This is how I look after Thouli: I wake up early at 5 morning and cook breakfast for her. It’s all mixed rice, maize, some green saag (spinach) like we have with dhal and some lentils. After feeding her I milk her. I milk her two times in each day and she gives 9 litres of milk a day. It’s so good that everyone wants fresh milk without adding water. I do not have to buy milk for my Khajaghar (the snack shop that Kausila runs in the little shop next to Samunnat’s office) for milk tea.
Looking after a cow is a great source of income and a way to financial independence for women. Some time ago we wrote about Sita whose cow has now calved. She looks after her cow at home and sells her milk. She was also able to sell the calf. A cow is an expensive investment but one that usually pays off. We are very grateful to our friends and to Michele, Frank and Ron for the cows in our life!
Subbha kamana naya barsha ko lagi!!! Happy New Year for 2016.