An enterprising mother: Fulkumari
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