Women For Liberty (WFL) is determined to liberate women of Nepal from social constraints that prevent them from becoming entrepreneurs. Thus, we flew west to Nepalgunj where, like all other places in Nepal, women are deprived of participation in the market.
Women were empowered by USAID via the Fatima Foundation of Nepal to form a community saving forum–a trend famous everywhere in Nepal. In this system all members of a group deposit money weekly or monthly for future security in order to take loans at other times in order to survive. They have developed good savings strategies, but do these really ensure a long-term opportunity for income creation? Saving money from seasonal agriculture rarely left them with any funds for other seasons.
In order to bring about good investment practices, our executive member, Jyoti, and local coordinators Sajjan and Lubna organized an intensive workshop “Women Investment for Freedom” in rural Nepalgunj last October with 26 participants. They connected these women with local enterprises who were kind enough to provide investment advice.
One of the facilitators, Aanjali Yadav (age 26), tried to start a micro organic shop which was blocked by official registration obstacles. But today, with the help of WFL she is able to place her products in the market and proudly stops worrying about legal registration problems. She recognizes that savings, of course, helped her future security, but investment has guaranteed cash in her hand all the times.
And among many of our participants, Gita Khatik (age 45), a mother of 4 daughters and 2 sons, was the ideal saver, but couldn’t get ahead because of the damage to her land and crops from the annual flooding. Our efforts gave her the idea of an alternative occupation for independent earnings, so she decided to invest a small amount of her savings to open a mini tea shop with capital of $20. Facing difficulties in setting the shop, our coordinators held a second session to provide basic managerial training. The Fatima Foundation assisted us in providing a basic session for keeping accounts to all who attended for less than 20 cents each.
Shameful of the bureaucracy in Nepal, as in all of our earlier workshops in 10 locations in eastern Nepal, women are not allowed national identity registration essential for owning small businesses. Absurdly, the Chief District Officer has announced that he won’t allow citizenship to those who don’t have a toilet in their homes. While most of the women in this region lack toilets in their homes and building toilets can cost them their savings. Hopefully, their small income generating measures will one day make it possible to tackle this daily requirement issue.
On a positive note, the two-day session ended with taking initiatives to create a grassroots Students for Liberty (SFL) chapter for local girls who were very keen to learn about the ideas of freedom. We have told them that we might not be able to initiate a formal SFL process but will be happy to ensure a localized Nepalese version of SFL by preaching the values of freedom in their local languages. Our local coordinators in these areas have shown a commitment to conduct monthly reading sessions. As we believe language should never halt anyone from entering to freer world.