Trainings helped them start a new life

Friday 30 December 2022

Around five years back, Sunita (26) and Ganga (26) left their villages and moved to the market area with their husbands and children. While Ganga knew she would start a shop in the market, Sunita had no idea what she would do but she left the village anyway. After moving, both received an opportunity to participate in 5-day Micro Enterprise Training and 5-day Start and Improve Your Business Training, run by the YEBP project where they learnt about business and the skills to start and run a business. They learnt the basics like starting small, keeping track of profit and expenses, ways of dealing with customers, among other skills. They also received some cash and equipment support from the project, which helped them start their shops immediately. Looking back Sunita thinks the most important thing she learnt in the training is that everyone can have a chance and an opportunity to grow.

“I always thought that only people from rich families do business or have access to opportunities. But the YEBP training made me realize that even people like me who have limited knowledge and little resources can own a business. I learnt that to start was a big deal and once we start, we can expand,” shares Sunita. This gave her confidence to start her own shop.

She also received some loans from a cooperative at a low interest rate. Her husband supported her decision and now she runs a shop with ‘fancy’ items and earns 30-40 thousand (upto 280 Euros) monthly (a fancy shop is a term used in Nepal to refer to a shop that sells imported goods, particularly western clothing). Ganga started a local grocery shop and earned enough for the family. “My husband did not have a job for a long time. Just recently, he started working for a cooperative. This shop has been the only source of income for the family for many years. With the profit, I have been able to enroll my daughters in school, look after my in-laws and the family’s needs,” she said.

At 26, these strong women have witnessed many ups and downs. However, they did not succumb to what many others accept as fate and chose to rise above the adversities. Born amid the barren hills and infertile slopy land, childhood for them was not easy. The families struggled to manage two meals. Both Sunita and Ganga were married as soon as they reached the marriageable age. Where they grew up, marriage of daughters was taken as an opportunity to reduce the financial burden in the family as after marriage, the daughters would live with her husband and parents would have one less mouth to feed.

Mothers of two children each, Sunita and Ganga’s lives were not different after marriage. It was the same place, same fate, same struggle to make ends meet. “Nothing changed for me after marriage, says Sunita. Ganga has a similar experience. “It was difficult to live with in-laws when my husband was not earning and land was not enough to grow crops,” Ganga shares.

Jobs are scarce in the villages of Kalikot and many young men migrate to India in search of opportunities or stay back at home, yield fields that don’t produce much and tend not to complain. None of the options were good enough for Sunita and Ganga. They did not want their husbands to go to India, but they wanted a more stable life. So, they took it on themselves to look out for opportunities.

 Sunita has a son (3) and a daughter (5), and Ganga has two daughters aged 4 and 6. All the kids go to the same school, which is the only school for the kids of that area. “There are no good schools in this area. The one where our children go is also not good and not near, either” shares Ganga. “That’s a community school. I could afford to send them to private schools as well, but the problem is we don’t have any private schools here,” Ganga adds. In Nepal, private schools are preferred over community schools considering the quality of education, but private schools are also expensive and are not accessible to everyone.

Sunita has similar dreams of sending her children to a nice private school, so they do not miss out on opportunities in life. “Both my husband and I have a certain level of education, but we have not been able to do much with it as in the villages, even for educated people, there are not many opportunities. So, I want my children to receive the best skills and best education so that they don’t feel constricted like we do,” Sunita says. With the earnings from the shop, I hope to be able to send my children to study in the city one day.

Migration is very high in the area. “People migrate from the village to this market and from this market to bigger markets. Previously, we were four people running our shops in this area after the training from the project but now only Ganga and I are left. Two others have migrated to bigger markets,” shares Sunita. But both Sunita and Ganga have no immediate plans to migrate as they have a decent clientele and despite having many similar shops in the area, their businesses are doing well. They have also received cash support of 15,000 rupees as business support from the project after COVID-19. “This helped a lot in reestablishing the business after COVID,” says Ganga.

One difference that both have felt after starting the business with the training is that they have learnt the basics of the business that many of their competitors don’t have. They are also glad that they are receiving long-term support from the project like the business support they received after COVID-19. This has made them even more confident about continuing the shops.

The YEBP project (2016 – 2021) supported 250 people with training, equipment, and cash to set up their business in Kalikot. This has helped people stay back in their villages and see beyond traditional income generation activities like migration to India or tending the fields.

The YEB Project formed 25 youth clubs in Kalikot and Dailekh of Karnali Province involving 484 members (Girls: 235 and Boys: 249). 694 youth were provided with Micro Enterprise Training where 80% of youth have established enterprises and are earning 15000-20000 monthly on an average. 495 youth have received life skills. A total of 349 youth received 390 hours vocational training and 90% of youth who attended the training are earning 20000-30000 monthly on average. In the same way, 646 children received bursary support which helped them continue their formal education.