Nepali Times Asian Paints
Nation
Moving mountains


BRITTANY SEARLE


During her first visit to Nepal, Australian social worker Stephanie Wollard saw seven women in a tin shed on the outskirts of Kathmandu making handicraft items. She set up Seven Women, a charity that helps women learn skills and generate income by selling products in Australia. The number of women has grown from seven to 100 in two years.

Seven Women skills training centre is located at the same tin shed where the women once worked, and is in partnership with the fair trade group, ESPA (Entire Power in Social Action) Nepal. The women are trained in embroidery and other skills, and their products are marketed and sold through volunteers in Australia and the proceeds are all repatriated to Nepal.

Seven Women has been a catalyst for change in many women's lives, improving their self-esteem, giving them a place to share experiences as well as providing their families a chance to lift themselves out of poverty.
Many of the women used to face harsh discrimination at home and social stigma in their villages because of their physical disabilities. By augmenting their income, Seven Women has made the women more socially and financially independent.

"Working for a fair wage has enabled the women to be economically empowered," Wollard told Nepali Times during a visit to Nepal last month. "This has allowed them to pay school and medical bills."

Seventeen-year-old Ram Maya Amagi was born with a speech defect, but after she started working with Seven Women was offered treatment and has now partially overcome her disability, raising her self-confidence.

"This is the greatest achievement in my life so far," Amagi says.

A student of international development back home in Australia, Wollard says the idea of Seven Women is based on creating change through social and economic empowerment.

"When I met these women I wanted to work with them to improve their lives not dole out money," she explains, "now they are independent. They enjoy life, they don't just struggle to survive."

Wollard says she had seen fair trade projects in Nepal that were not sustainable, she was determined that Seven Women would be different.

It wasn't easy. Logistics was a challenge, the women had to overcome self-doubt about their abilities after years of discrimination and progress in producing quality goods was slow. But with Wollard's persistence many of the women are now aiming to train others, hoping that they too can help women like themselves. Some are even looking to develop their own businesses, with handicapped women even employing non-handicapped women.

Said Wollard: "Slowly, as they received training the women were able to make good quality handmade products that drew them a wage and were sold internationally, this gave them an immense sense of pride."

http://www.blessed-life.com/



LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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