Towards self-employment: Women of Baggale tole
It is a common practice in our society that male members of a family are generally regarded as the breadwinners whereas women members are traditionally confined to looking after the household chores and raising children. However, time and again women seem to be willing to break away from their traditional roles and engage in income generating activities with great deal of diligence and sense of responsibility. A case in point is Blanket Entrepreneurship Committee of ward No. 7, Bagaale Tole of Tribhuvannagar municipality in Dang district in far-western Nepal. This enterprise group comprising of women members has proved that illiterate women are able to generate family income with far better performance records - challenging in many ways a deep rooted notion held that the illiterate women are best suited to only looking after household chores.
The family of Karmala Gharti, resident of Bagaale, ward No. 7 under Tribhuvan Nagar municipality had descended from Rukum district due to geographical remoteness in hope of a better living. Karmala started pig rearing business after the economic responsibility of family came over to her shoulder as her husband remained away from home for some low paying employment. That small venture of hers however could not succeed. Though she had learnt the traditional skill of weaving blanket, she was not able to translate the same into some marketable venture even though market existed in the urban areas of Dang. In her locality, she was not alone in such a situation ? a lot of her colleagues including Karmasari Gharti, Purmala Gharti and Daya Roka who had descended from Rolpa to Dang all had similar story. They were unable to turn their traditional blanket weaving skills into some income generating activities.
Kamala quit the pig rearing business after they were encouraged, during one of the community mobilization process by Krishna Prasad Sharma, Deputy Manager (DM) serving in the Support Organization of RUPP under Tribhuvan Nagar municipality, to turn their blanket weaving skills into some income generating activities. Following that, the four women constituted a blanket weaving enterprise, where Karmasari Gharti, became the Chairperson, Karmala Gharti the Treasurer and Purmala Gharti and Daya Roka as members of the enterprise group. In the month of September 2000, they started blanket weaving work with great enthusiasm after they received necessary training and credit support worth Rs. 40,000 from RUPP.
All those four women headed households have six members each in their family to feed. Karmala Gharti, the Treasurer of the enterprise, based on her experiences have reached the conclusion that this occupation has provided good livelihood prospects even though it is labour intensive. She says, "My husband works as a mechanic in the neighboring country. Thanks to the income that earned from blanket weaving that I have been able to look after my kids on my own. I feel confident now that I need not wait for receiving money from my husband who has very meager sources of income as I am self-employed". She has now admitted all her children into the school though she herself is illiterate.
Daya Roka, co-worker of Karmala, also has made blanket-weaving job as a part and parcel of her life. Her daughter, Vasti Roka, who studies in class VI at Bal Bikash Lower Secondary School in Ghorahi, also has been helping her mother in her spare time. In this process, her daughter also has picked up the skills.
All the members in the group weave blanket together repaying monthly loan installment and the profit amount is shared equally among them. The Chairperson of the group, Karmasari is not worried about sales of their products anymore. Customers come directly to the enterprise looking for their product and they have not still been able to meet the required demand.
On the other hand, there is still room for the optimum utilization of their traditional skills of making fine quality blankets that could capture specialized market niches beyond local market. To this end, K.P Sharma of the Support Organization in Tribhuvannagar is currently analysing the feasibility of linking this women enterprise to external markets through coordination with Support Organizations in other partner municipalities.
This is a fitting example of how they have been successful in breaking the perceived traditional norm that only the male members are capable of earning. Now they proudly say, "If all the sisters in the village would have engaged in similar pursuits like ours, it would be good for all and enhance prestige of the village. We are ready to transfer our skills to those who are willing to earn their own living".