Namaste, my name is Sahin Pravin and I am around 21 years old and come from the east of Nepal. In my home village, like many in Nepal, woman have little or no rights and to be born female often leads to a very disadvantaged life.
I was living with a cousin when Nasreen, my sister, visited me in my home village. She told me all about the Local Women’s Handicrafts (LWH) project and her vision and what she wanted to create. It was then that I decided to return to Kathmandu with her. It is difficult to express how excited I was to be given the opportunity to get my fundamental rights back, rights that many women from around the world take for granted every day.
Nasreen shared the skills she had learnt with me and as more women came to LWH for help I was able to train them. I have been working within LWH from the start and it has been amazing to see it grow into what it is today. When I was managing the workshop, we had 6 women that we trained and had working with us, now we have 60, All these women have seen positive changes to their lives. Through the help and training LWH offered me I learnt new skills and knowledge. This makes me feel hugely empowered and I know my co-workers feel the same. I now work at LWH as the general manager, my role includes everything from training to designing and sourcing new clothes and products.
I am also involved in LWH’s sanitary product program. We manufacture a sanitary products that are reusable and environmentally friendly. I offer talks educating the women of the villages on the importance of correct use of sanitary products, tackling the subject of Chhaupadi and giving away our sanitary products, that are kindly donated by our supporters.
There is no other organisation in all of Nepal that offer the female population the support we do. LWH have now trained 380 women, all with little or no education, often with difficult past lives. Not all the women we train can stay at LWH, but they return to their villages with far more confidence, able to earn money for themselves and teach the skills we have taught them to their own daughters and other women in the village.We are starting to see a genuine ripple effect in our society. These changes and our work are not only heard about but also seen and felt within the community.
We are very aware of the environmental impact that some businesses can have and strive to make our range as environmentally friendly as possible. Many of our products are now manufactured from upcycled material. LWH know that by producing high-quality fair-trade products we can honor our customers and our workers. Here at LWH we use a 110-year-old loom that does not use electricity, we also have biogas which produces free cooking gas for all the woman at the center. We do this as we not only care about fair trade, a safe and happy work setting and empowering the women who work here but we also realize how precious and important the environment is and how much we need to save it.
It is a dream of all involved with LWH that we open more LWH centers around Nepal. Offering the opportunity of jobs and empowerment to more women, tackling the slave like conditions in the sweatshops and driving our ethos of Fairtrade products further. The work LWH does is very important, but I am worried as I am not sure how many of you reading this are aware, or understand, the situation in Nepal. While very beautiful Nepal is one of the least developed countries in the world , and recently we suffered massive economic disruption due to a 7.8 magnitude earthquake, which killed nearly 9000 people and injured nearly 3 times as many, because of the nature of our housing many villages were flattened and 3.5 million people were left homeless. The economic and political instability of a country like Nepal means it takes a very long time to recover from these things. This makes the work of places like LWH so more important.
While it might be hard for you to imagine Nepal is a country where only 0.1% of women own a business and unemployment averages higher than 40%. This causes economic migration and more than 15,000 people leave Nepal every year to find work in a different country. Such economic struggles affect the female population greatly. According to the BBC each year 10,000+ women and girls are trafficked into the international sex trade. While Nepal has the 3rd largest rate of child marriages.
Another huge challenge facing the female population of many countries like Nepal, including India, Pakistan & Bangladesh are the detrimental effects of the fashion and textile industry. This has dragged many women and children into a life of enforced poverty in unsafe and unregulated sweatshops and often run by unscrupulous employers, with little regards for their workers welfare. Encouraged by a western culture of buy cheap and wear once an Industry that employs a large percentage of the world’s170 million child laborers has developed. There is evidence that children are taken from their impoverished parents with the promise of a well-paid job and education but in reality, they are working under appalling conditions that amount to modern day slavery and the worst forms of child labor.
I would like to explain to people that when you buy a product then it is so important that you understand where you are buying it from, and the price people are paying so you can enjoy your cheap clothes. I fear many just see how cheap the products are but never ask “who made this”? “were they paid a fair wage”? Or “what are the real human costs of producing these products”? If you the consumer cannot be sure of the answer, then please reconsider your purchase.
By ignoring these questions then you may be a contributing factor in a life of both physical and mental pain. Imagine if the suffering that goes into every stitch of the garment was transferred to the wearer? Would you rush to purchase the latest trend or see that item on the shelf as such a bargain?
You can make a difference, if you made the decision to buy only from regulated and fair-trade companies, like LWH, then the industry would need to listen and change its practices. You would be instrumental in stopping the exploitation of millions of women and children.
You can be confident that LWH ensures that every person that works for, or with them, receives a fair wage and that their welfare is paramount. LWH’s holistic approach to allowing women to generate their own income lifts them out of poverty and gets them their independence back. While our education center provides much needed knowledge and resources to help educate girls and women. The more lives that LWH can touch means less girls and women are becoming victims of outside influences. We at LWH believe that our ethos will be spread from mother to daughter and beyond so with your support, and time, we could change the outcome for all women and girls in Nepal.
If I was given the opportunity to say one thing to the world then what I would like to share is; “as a consumer please become conscious about where you are buying your produce from, it is only through fair-trade organizations that you can guarantee that you are helping the growers and factory workers lead better lives”.
Local Women’s Handicrafts