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Check our blog (or subscribe for updates) to keep up with the latest things happening here at Samunnat Nepal. We have our latest news, lovely photographs, product launches, guests posts from some of our ladies and opinion pieces as well. We’d love to hear your comments too.
Thank you for encouraging us after the floods and thank you to those who donated; we are so grateful. We ladies have been given help when we were at our lowest point. This has inspired us to help people when they are at their lowest. We were saving money to have a Teej celebration but when we saw the devastation of the floods and met the poor families who lost their homes and clothes, we had no questions at all that we needed to help these people. We used the Teej money and donated more to provide bags of rice and clothing. Rice is too expensive now and will cost even more because the floods destroyed the crops. It is so hard.
So many families have lost their homes, especially the very poor people who are living on government land which is low lying. We are asking the government not to rebuild the homes in places where the problem will happen all over again. We are saying to they must give these poor people better land and build homes that will withstand the floods because they happen again and again.
Here are photos of the lands and the people with their bags of rice and we have us buying clothing for the people who lost their clothing.
Society in Nepal is changing fast. With so many of our young people going overseas to countries like Saudi Arabia and Korea to work, the structure of society is changing. Roles that would once have been shared by the extended family are now having to be paid for. This is simply the reality. The emergence of a time poor middle class is becoming more and more obvious even outside Kathmandu.
We are responding to these changes and seeing if we can make some of them work for us. Certainly the need for child care shows that families are less able to provide child care and this is also happening in other areas. We are trying to see opportunities for job creation in these changes.
We have established a small catering group of ladies who can be employed short term to assist at big events and functions like weddings and funerals. These ladies can help where the families want to cater but need more help to do it. Or…they can run the show! They can all cook traditional Nepali dishes but have been receiving training in the very popular Southern Indian cuisine and other dishes that will heighten their chances of being booked!
Here at Samunnat, we benefitted from their lessons in South Indian cuisine. We really enjoyed eating kofta, barfi (sweets), paneer pakoda (a cheese dish), and kheer (rice pudding). Our Wendy didi is so happy because she can eat all these because they are gluten free and have no maida or Atta (wheat flour).
Here is the story of our amazing Bulu. She is a young Rajbansi girl, one of our Adivasi (indigenous) people. She is a single mother of two small children. Bulu was married by her family at 14 to one Indian man but he left and she has not heard anything from him since one year. She is living with her parents but needs to earn an income for her family and her sister suggest the idea of selling chatpati. Chatpati is delicious snack which is made with noodles, lemon juice, salt, chill, onion, tomato, coriander and spices.
Doing this business herself she borrowed a selling cart but had to spend NRs 4000/- on repairs. She borrowed some money and started this business which is a hard job to pull and push the heavy cart and she has the little ones. With just starting with very little money she is already paying her school fees and feeding herself and every few days she tries to save NRs50/- (approx. AUD0.60) She heard about Samunnat and our Cooperative and came to talk with us and we were so inspired by her courage and determination.
Her wish list is that after three months she can make her own wooden cart and be independent so we are helping her by lending the amount for this with no interest and giving her very big fee reduction for her baby to go to our Montessori creche. Bulu is very courageous and powerful and we were all so inspired when she shared her story. Not many ladies sell chatpati and she feels very proud of doing this job.
When I was talking with her to ask if we could write about her she was so proud and offered me chapati so I could taste how good it was!
I have always noticed the eyes of the grandmothers and older women who live on the way to the Samunnat office. Every day we exchange our greetings but only from outside when I am there or with the ladies. I had a feeling that they wanted to see and give their compassion and love. I was thinking about a way I could spend time with all of Samunnat ladies and these older ladies, our elders. Finally we decided to arrange a Samunnat Open day. We bought some special leaves and cotton to make their time really useful and so they felt like they were contributing. I wanted them to feel that they are very Special for us. I wanted them to realize they had the capacity to support without being dependent with their son or husband. We have a culture that in 3 stages of being a woman we always rely on a man: first our father, then our husband, and finally our son. I wanted to help them understand that they are not a burden.
We invited 8 women neighbors and had a get together sharing in our child care centre room. We had family of all generations! We broke the usual cultural tradition when generally organizations make long boring speeches. We talked clearly about Samunnat mission and goals and introduced each other. I also told them why I wanted this get together and why we were making the leaf plates and cotton candlelight. I explained how it will be useful.
They must have loved it because now they want this kind of meeting every month. They also want to contribute their afternoon time with some income generating ideas with us every month. They assured us that they will give love and moral support to the ladies who are staying in Samunnat shelter. They all feel the part of Samunnnat Family. They had fruits and chiya because they were fasting for the month of Sharwan, especially on Monday. We have already got orders for our cotton candlelights to the value of 5000/- and the neighbors said they will buy our leaf plates when they have their special puja.
Income generation training is a big industry in Nepal and sometimes the only people who benefit are the trainers. We need to think critically about what is available. Sometimes there are no jobs to be had at the end of training; sometimes there is an oversupply of people trained in one field; sometimes the level of training provided doesn’t really equip people to compete in the workforce; sometimes trainers and training providers are exploitative. We have to be vigilant. This is one reason why we shy away from big programs (even though numbers may look good) and try as much as possible for locally based, tailor made solutions.
A direct way of helping is to look at job creation. We are doing this in a few ways:
We employ two of the ladies who received Montessori training in our child care centre;
We are establishing a small beauty parlour in our middle shop where some of the ladies who have received Beauty Parlour training will work;
We have started a Helping Hand Catering Team. This is pretty pioneering in Nepal but people have been very encouraging and they have had their first job. We will report more on this soon (when we have photos!). Basically this is a group of ladies who all had training in cooking, especially in southern Indian cooking which is popular now. These ladies are hired for casual jobs-helping for weddings, funerals etc.
And we are in the process of purchasing a grinding machine (Kumari is shopping in the photo above) which will mean two ladies can be employed in a small business where people in the community will bring their grains and seeds to be ground. Training has been provided and we have decided on the machine. We need to renovate our cow shed which was damaged in the earth quake. It was damage that was not a problem for a cow but is now! We sold our cow. Not all our ideas work and a lonely cow created a lot of work! Cows are great sources of income generation for women in their homes.
We hope you have enjoyed this series of posts about some of the ladies who are changing their lives. There is a lot of sad news in the world at the moment and we thought it would be nice for people to hear some positive things too. As we always say though, this is not possible without the support of people who support us. If you have read this far, you are one of the people whose encouragement and love makes a huge difference. Dhanyabad.