An enterprising mother: Fulkumari

Tuesday 11 May 2021

Fulkumari  wakes up early at 4 am  in the morning  and starts making Jhilli (a snack made of all purpose flour)  till 12 pm after which she eats lunch and heads towards the  Haat Bazaar (market), selling  Jhilli  to costumers looking for a quick bite.  She returns  in the evening and prepares dinner for herself and sleeps earlier than most of her  neighbours. Her daily routine could  not  be any simpler  than this and her life  any more content, until the COVID-19 pandemic  hit worldwide. As  the Nation went into complete lockdown for a year, so did her  simple business of selling snacks in the market.   

She raised her four daughters alone after her husband passed away over two decades ago. They are all married now.  Since then, she started selling snacks which is her only livelihood. She used to  sell  snacks worth  Rs. 200-500 daily before  the pandemic  but during  the lockdown, her sales went down to zero.  As she was unable to  pursue the only source of income during lockdown, she resorted to taking loan from her brother and support from her daughters.   

“During lockdown days, I was always worried  about two meals a day. The  problem continued after lockdown as I became ill and  could not  resume my business  properly. I was facing loss on top of already being in debt”.    

Save the Children  in partnership with local NGO  Rastriya  Rojgar  Prawardhan  Kendra (RRPK),  started  Voucher Assistance (VA) program under the  UK Aid  funded  project ‘Nepal Emergency Response Fund’ (NERF)  to people  highly  affected  by  the consequences of  COVID-19,  and  Fulkumari  was one of them. Before VA distribution, Rapid Assessments were carried out  in targeted areas where  the surveyors  came into contact with  Fulkumari  and she was listed in  the VA program.  After she  received  the voucher card,  she bought rice, pulses,  (all purpose) flour, cooking oil and soap  worth Rs. 10,350.  According to her, the food items will be enough for her and occasional guests for  up to 4 months.  While rice, pulses and soap  are  for her daily use, she  purchased all purpose flour and cooking oil for  making snacks to sell  and get back  up from her debt.   

Like  Fulkumari, a total of 12,645  families belonging to  six  municipalities of  Saptari,  Mahottari,  Sarlahi,  Parsa, and  Banke received food,  hygiene  and clothing  items  worth Rs. 10,350  through VA program. The vendors were pre-selected and price/quality of items were set accordingly.  Each selected  shop had two volunteers to help monitor quality and price of the products and help  beneficiaries receive goods and use voucher cards with ease. 

With funding support from  UKAID, Save the Children, CARE, Action Aid, Handicap International, Rural Reconstruction Nepal concluded second phase of  voucher assistance program.

Text and Photos: Binod Thapa Magar