Today we celebrate International Women's Day and we have therefore chosen to celebrate one of the women who make a direct impact on uplifting other women through her work. Let us introduce Bhawani with whom we work when producing our soft furnishings in felting. We asked Bhawani about the issues that matter to her and what she feels is important to women in Nepal. For 15 years she has been working with women of different communities in villages outside Kathmandu where she also has led skill based training and focused on creating opportunities that fits around their lives. She started to work with felting 15 years ago. However, she has been working for 25 years since she left school at a young age.
Dear Bhawani, Thank you for taking time out to tell us a bit about key issues that are close to your heart for you and what has motivated the choices you have made over the years. Tells us a bit about your background and what it means for you to empower other women through work?
I am a normal woman who started working in felting at a very early age. It was not easy being a young girl in Nepal. I do not have a high academic degree but I have now worked with felting for 15 years and I love working with something I am passionate about and passing on this skills to others. As a team leader I can support women to become independent, capable of making decisions based on what they feel is right or wrong, Paying them a fair wage, helping them to have a better standing within their families and being able to work for a company where they can also be supported in other aspects of life such as childcare. Empowering them in this way makes me feel empowered.
What made you choose to join a business with social- economic focus at the core?
Even before I started to work, I witnessed many unemployed people around me, both people with degrees and without, it made me think about what would be right for me so I could earn a living. It was sad to see families where both the husband and wife had good degrees but still had no job.I felt that formal education was not really important to at that time, but learning skills, working with my hands would be a better option as a way to secure work and a livelihood. So I left school and started to work at a very young age. In hindsight, that turned out to be a choice in which my parents didn’t want to support me so it was a difficult time. I first started working on one of the top Handicraft Organization, a member of the Fair Trade organization in Nepal. There, I learnt about the social impact an organization can have on people who work there and it made me determined to later choose a workplace where social economic values is at the core. This is how I can be a part of making a good long term impact to a community and support women.
Bhawani, does not have any daughter of her own but we were still keen to know what advise she would pass on to young girls in Nepal.
If you had daughters or young girls in your family what would your advise to them be?
If I had a daughter, I would advise her to be honest and also Sporty so that she can compete with boys. I will tell her that she must be able to deal with all kinds of people face to face. No cheating and always be kind. Always try to see if you can influence people with negative attitude to be more positive. Don’t ever feel alone and weak even if faced with a hard situation. If people tell you are wrong then let them think what they want, seek to follow what you feel is right and perhaps one day others will follow you too. Be fair and treat other with consideration.
What are the issues women in Nepal face that you can support them with?
Currently it has come to light that there is a major issue of sexual abuse for women in Nepal. Many women have to suffer from domestic violence. Majority of women in Kathmandu have migrated from remote areas, seeking job opportunities or getting married here. Many of them have not had a good basic education resulting in them struggling to find employment. These are the women that we provide jobs and create good working conditions for, so they can have a regular good earning. It doesn’t matter if they are educated or not, they are 100% guaranteed to get the job in my business. I was given a chance and I want other to have chances too. We are as a team committed to strengthen them and their families. So we pay the educational expenses for their children. We offer flexibility in their working hours so that they can give time to both their families and their work. I always encourage women to work as I feel it gives independence and more importantly self-respect. I am very happy to say that we now work with more than 80 women and only a few years ago it was only 30 women and that gives me real joy.
What is your hope for women in Nepal in 2019?
I have big hopes for the future for women in Nepal. Women have now loud voices and they are more aware, they can use their voices to be heard and to have a say in their lives. Not like earlier when we had no say and hardly any rights. So, there are a lot more opportunities in all fields especially in sports. That is why I also said that if I have a daughter, I would have asked her to be sporty. Women are now not only housewives. Majority of women are also working in different offices and different fields. So, I am very positive that one day every woman will be the major part of economic activities in every family. Every woman will be a team with their husband in all aspects and in equal partnership.
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