Women empowerment has been one of the hot topics in development. Various skill development training programs are implemented by government and non-government organizations to uplift the socio-economic status of women. Women are trained with some skills, however not everyone can have access to resources and make utilization of their skills. In this chapter of entrepreneurial journey, we conversed with Bamboo Samuhik Utpadan Kendra, situated at Kirtipur-10 which has been struggling since 2074 to run a hand-made bamboo items so that their skills do not get wasted and they don’t remain idle.
Bamboo Samuhik Utpadan Kendra emerged from the local community women who were members of Lhowdega Women’s Group of ward no 10, Kirtipur. Few women of the group took training on preparing items from bamboo from Kirtipur Municipality before 2072. After the earthquake, these women decided to teach these skills to other women in their group so that they can practice their skills and generate income out from their work. With the help of Gyan Bahadur, also trained from Municipality, they conducted training at Kwah: Keba public building with an intention to develop skills of women in making bamboo items.
As per conversation with Hira Shova Maharjan, chairperson of Bamboo Samuhik Utpadan Kendra, establishing a registered organization has been a great experience to understand the entrepreneurship. Out of the many trained women, only eight agreed to work together and form a registered organization. Many left the training, as it required intense eye work and there were many cuts as the work required to use sharp blades and knives. And some left because they could not balance the time at home and training. They had been working informally since 2072 and formally registered in 2074.
In five years of operation, they have faced number of challenges. After few months of earthquake, they worked in temporary shelter which was left empty. Then they shifted to Kwah: Keba public building after temporary shelter was removed. However, they faced difficulty to operate at the public building during the feasts. So with the help of Homenet and Oxfam, they were able to lease a plot of land at their own community to operate their organization. Since these women do not have high education level, they have limited knowledge about government regulations. They faced difficulty in renewing the organization annually as they have not been able to generate adequate income.
They come to work after sending their children to school and leave before the children are back from school. They want to utilize their time in between to master their skills and earn some income. However, they are facing market problems for their products as they don’t have skills in marketing. The COVID pandemic has adversely impacted their business as they could not sell their stock. As the items remain in the stock for long time, there are chances of them getting damaged by insects.
They have been selling their items mainly frames and baskets as gifts and token of love to programs conducted by ward and municipality offices. The local person also buy few items as birthday gifts. Similarly, the tourists come to their workspace, and buy some of the items which they like and are easily portable. They have approached local restaurants to buy their items such as nanglo, baskets, dustbins, etc. They make small hand fans, especially targeting Gaijatra festival as it is hot during the season and it can be used easily. They provide fans at Panga and Kirtipur. As of now, they have their market limited to Kirtipur only.
Working in the organization has uplifted their social and economic status to some extent. Despite low economic turnover, they are happy to spend their time creating bamboo items. “It is better to utilize and hone the skills we have than to sit idle. If we don’t use the skills we have, then we will remain the same as we were before” told Ms. Hira Shova Maharjan.
The community people praise them and encourage them to keep doing the work. Not just community people, they hear a lot of compliments from other women groups as well when they go for meetings or attend any events. They feel good when people are asking about their business and also order items from their organization. They say for now they are earning name and in future they will definitely able to earn significant financial turnover as well.
They want to continue with their work and make it big in future and feel always glad for registering an organization and working together for their empowerment.
As many youths go to abroad for foreign employment and prefer to settle there, the country is losing the most productive human resources. In her final words, Hira ShovaMaharjan said that if people have willingness to do something, there are plenty of works in Nepal and its better to use own skills for the betterment of the country and not to go abroad without any compelling reasons.
From the struggle of Bamboo Samuhik Utpadan Kendra, we can learn how we can create employment opportunity within our community and make maximum utilization of time which otherwise would have gone wasted. Also an important lesson to learn is make use of skills learnt in training. Government and non-government organization conduct many skill development training but we are not able to capitalize those skills. It is important to invest in skill development as well as resource management for empowering community women to generate income within the community. Spreading the entrepreneurial mindset about the women can be great step towards the real women empowerment.