She stitches her future herself
Samatolia ran her hands swiftly on the sewing machine, adjusting the pink fabric she is making into a blouse. Clad in a cotton saree and green bangles, she is what a typical married woman in our communities look like. But she has just turned eighteen.
Samatolia was married off at the age of 17 when she failed her school leaving certificate exam. She never had a chance to retake her grade 10 exams. She shifted to her in-laws place immediately after the wedding and soon after her husband went abroad to work. With this, the responsibility of the household fell on Samatolia’s young shoulders. She took care of the family as well as the farm. Even as a young girl, living with her brother, she didn’t like working in the field and wished she could do something else.
“Life was difficult. I didn’t like working in the field but could not say no to my in-laws. I had no other skills and farming was all I knew”, she says.
By the time I met Samatolia at her home, she had already undergone a three month long training to learn tailoring and running a small business. She also received financial support to buy a sewing machine. Initial days of setting up a tailoring shop at home were a struggle as there was little trust on her skills. But over the last few months, business has improved. She has three to four customers every day.
She said to me, “The skill to stitch clothes has not only helped me be independent and hope for a better future but it has also helped me cope with my husband’s absence and the family responsibility.”
“I stich suits, blouses, school uniforms and dresses for women,” says Samatolia, She makes 3,500 (nepali rupees) per month, much less than our program’s target of Rs. 6,000. She spends her income on buying household items and clothes for her family. She saves a little every month but hopes to save more. Confident of her skills, she is very hopeful about her business flourishing. She wants to start a fabric store so that she can expand her business.
Once married, girls like Samatolia find it difficult to go back to school as daughter-in-law duties take over. In eastern Terai, Save the Children is working with local organizations to offer vocational training to give an option of acquiring skills to the youth, many of whom are out of school for various reasons. They get an opportunity to learn life-skills, a vocation and start up their own business.
Samatolia is one of 40 youths receiving micro-enterprise support in 2016. She hopes that when her husband comes back home this time, she can convince him to start a business together. She says, “He can manage the store and I can stitch.”