No Work, Income and a Voice for Women
Like many low-income communities across Nepal, men in Sahasram are forced to migrate to gulf nations to look for jobs – leaving women with the responsibility to take the lead at home.
The women we’ve met are mostly small-holder farmers depending on seasonal yields and livestock farming to fulfil their basic needs. They have no formal occupation, no sustainable income, and no real opportunity to contribute back to the economy.
But they remain hopeful that one day the trans-generational cycle of poverty passed down from their families will be broken. At least that is what Kuswaha has always believed in.
Kuswaha, mother of 4
“It’s a loss when women like us are not allowed to work.”
Kuswaha is right.
Traditionally, women like her leave their own villages after marriage and move in with their in-laws. The men make most of the financial decisions, since they are the ones earning an income. Women were never allowed to work.
This norm is beginning to shift, as more men start to leave their homes to work abroad. This results in the women having to take on the role of decision-maker in the family, a position for which they haven’t been groomed.
Kuswaha now handles the farms, manages the finances and other things at home like schooling for her children.
To better deal with the challenges of running a household, the young mothers in this village are banding together and demanding for change.
Kumari, mother of 3
“We took a big loan to seek treatment for our son’s health problem. We go to the city, twice a year. Without an income it is impossible to repay the loan.”
Without an income, mothers like Kumari are often forced to take on high interest loans that keep her trapped below the poverty line.
In situations like these, taking her children out of school at a young age so that they can earn for the family later becomes the only viable option for survival.
Her story is unfortunately not unique; there are many such cases in this environment.
No Access To Markets
Laxmi, like many young mothers in Sahasram, is a smallholder farmer that relies on livestock and agriculture to support her family.
She recalls her daily journey to the forest, “a three-hour walk to gather feed for her buffaloes despite the heat, cold or rain.” she says.
Laxmi, mother of 3
Due to remoteness of her village, lack of economies of scale and storage infrastructure – she finds herself ‘locked out’ of distant urban markets, unable to make any profits from her production surplus or forced to sell when prices are at the lowest.
Reconignising this issue, the women of Sahasram have come together to establish a Women’s Farmers Group to protect and improve the socio-economic status of smallholder farmers like Kuswaha, Kumari and Laxmi.
Click on Solution tab to see how we are partnering with them to bring change.
A women-led dairy enterprise
In response, BBB has launched a pilot project involving the Women’s Farmer Group, an implementing partner and local district government to improve market access for smallholder farmers in Sahasram – through the establishment of a dairy enterprise.
Based on end-market demand, the enterprise is expected to be fully self-sustaining after 6 months. The project will directly support the community members through:
1. Establishing a milk collection point
The collection point will provide smallholder farmers like Laxmi and Kuswaha the opportunity to sell fresh cow’s milk everyday, while providing wages for selected members to work in the collection centre. Their duties include managing milk in the Sahasram, packaging, and diversifying into different dairy products for sale.
2. Access to new Markets
The products will be transported daily to a dairy store which we will support in establishing in the municipality of Jaleshwor, 45 minutes away by road. With a low supply of quality dairy products in the area, we are expecting to receive high demand from local businesses, middle and higher income consumers in the area.
3. Micro savings & Credit
Revenue will not only allow the enterprise to be self-sustaining, but also allow members of the Women’s Group to start a micro-savings and credit plan. Independent women like Suratiya, who hopes to start a dairy business of her own one day, can then take small loans to invest in expanding her livestock while investing her children’s education for the long-term.
Click on Implementing Partner tab to learn more about our partner.
Upasana, director of WEM with the Women of Sahasram
Established in 2008, Women Empowerment Mission (WEM) , Nepal mission is to organize women, children and other marginalised communities against all social inequalities and improving economic status.
A role model for her community
Our local partner is led by Upasana, director of WEM. Born and raised in Sahasram, she is a role model of what the power of education can do, especially for girls. Over the years, she has worked tirelessly to fight for gender rights and help improve educational and economic conditions for the most vulnerable groups in her province.
Upasana also believes giving work is more than just a paycheck or income. It gives hope, dignity, and purpose to the people, and teaches those who have been left out that they have something valuable to offer the world as producers, not merely consumers or recipients of aid.
“I will continue to work hard until a day where every child in my community can grow up educated and lift up others along the way.”
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