– 19 October 2018
Women empowered to give their children a better life
Leaning over a sewing machine, her two sons looking on, Sitta Sunar sews the final stitches in a gold-coloured kurta, a women’s dress commonly worn in Nepal.
Sitta acknowledges the kurta is rather plain, but believes with more practice she can improve her skills and make more refined kurtas and designer blouses. She is sure these will be popular with customers at her small shop.
“Before I got help SOS, I never dreamed I could do this,” says Sitta, 29, showing off some of the colourful kurtas for sale. “Now it’s very different. I want to learn more, get more training, and expand my business.”
Sitta opened her shop a year ago with help from SOS Children’s Villages Nepal. She is one of about 20 women around the city of Pokhara supported to create businesses to earn enough to independently care for themselves and their children.
“Women empowerment is necessary here in Nepal,” says Rajendra Regmi, an SOS coordinator working with families around Pokhara, a picturesque city at the foothills of the Annapurna mountains. “Women are often the most vulnerable. The fathers leave and marry another woman, and it is up to the mothers to educate, feed and take care of the children.”
An inspiring lady
Overall, SOS Children’s Villages Nepal supports some 2,700 families with about 4,500 children across Nepal. The organisation helps families by ensuring children can go to school, paying the school fees and providing school uniforms and supplies. Of the total, 660 families receive support to start businesses to generate more income.
Sitta and her children found themselves struggling alone after her husband died in a motorcycle accident six years ago. After his death, she had no money to send the boys to school or buy clothes. “It was a very hard life,” she says.
SOS Nepal first helped Sitta and her sons, aged 11 and six, by covering basic needs and then approached her about the type of work she might be able to do. Having skills as a seamstress, she had always dreamed of running a small shop mending clothes and making women’s dresses. So SOS Nepal bought her two sewing machines and the fabric to start.
One year later, she is optimistic about the business. She runs her shop out of a converted storage area at her sister’s house, earning about 16,000 Nepali rupees (€120) per month, up from the 6,000 rupees (€45) she made as a day labourer. She now wants to learn to make school uniforms, designer dresses and tops so she can earn more.
“The support I get from SOS has been a godsend,” she says. “I’m confident that with this line of work I can earn enough to become independent.”
“Sitta is an inspirational lady,” adds Mr Regmi of SOS Nepal. “She’s very enthusiastic and has shown her ability to work and make a better life for her children.”
A grocery store full of promise
Dibya Kumari, 42, is another example of a widowed mother supported to start a business. Her husband, who worked in a clothing factory in India, died of an illness 11 years ago. To survive, Dibya sold vegetables roadside to provide for her two daughters and baby son.
Dibbya Kumari minding her store along with her son and daughter
Over the past 10 years, SOS Children’s Villages Nepal has helped Dibya, enabling her children to continue their schooling. She displays the report cards of her now 14-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son, showing their good marks. Her daughter says she wants to help people and become a doctor. Her sporty son dreams of being a football player. Opening a photo album, Dibya also shows pictures of her 18-year-old daughter who recently married.
For Didya to become self-sufficient, SOS Nepal helped her start a small grocery shop where she sells sweets, snacks, noodles and other basics. She and her children live in a small room behind the store and she is happy with the opportunity to run the shop and give her children a better life. Seeing them graduate from school is her biggest wish.
“Without the support of SOS these past 10 years, I couldn’t have made it,” she says.