Abandoned by her husband, Tulasi Kumal takes sole care of her three-year-old daughter. With the support of a CRT/N – ADB – ENERGIA project, she was able to expand her tailoring shop. Tulasi now makes a profit of NPR 6,000 (USD 58), employs two other women and is training five more.
Tulasi Kumal lives in Sadepani, a village in the district of Kailali in the far west of Nepal. Together with a friend, Tulasi owns ‘Pawan Tailors’, a small tailoring shop. Abandoned by her husband, she and her three-year-old daughter live with her parents and four other family members. Tulasi is the sole breadwinner for this extended family and faces many socioeconomic challenges. Although located near the national east-west highway, Sadepani had, until recently, no access to modern energy, information and health facilities. Such challenges are magnified for Tulasi since she comes from the Tharu community, a socially oppressed group, alienated from their land by other communities.
Seizing a golden opportunity
Under the ADB-supported project “Improving gender-inclusive access to clean and renewable energy in Bhutan, Nepal and Sri Lanka”, and with the support of ENERGIA, the Centre for Rural Technology – Nepal (CRT/N) developed a capacity-building package that would enable poor and marginalised women to expand their enterprises (or to start new ones) by using electricity. Having basic tailoring skills, Tulasi was an ideal candidate to participate in this training programme: she was already making a living from tailoring, and her enterprise could easily be upgraded in many ways using the electricity that had recently been introduced in her village.
During basic entrepreneurial skills training, Tulasi learned about book-keeping, making a business plan, marketing and sales. In addition, her tailoring skills were boosted with a six-week advanced training course in tailoring. She can now also make clothes for men, and her offerings for women now include new designs.
Motivated by the training, Tulasi took a loan of NPR 6,000 from the Electricity Users Cooperative (EUC) in her village, the Ghoda Ghodi Samudaik Vidhyut Upabhokta Samiti, to purchase a tailoring and hemming machine for the shop. The shop now uses electricity for lighting, allowing Tulasi to extend working hours while also making it a more comfortable environment in which to work and for her child to be around. She now delivers better-finished clothes with neat hems pressed with an electric iron. She has plans to electrify her tailoring machine so that she can complete her orders even faster. Her current average profit is NPR 6,000 and the demand for her services is growing, not only for tailoring but also for passing on her skills to other women in her community and in the neighbouring villages. As busy as she is, Tulasi is now in the process of expanding her business by engaging two additional staff members and training five students. She foresees an additional income of NPR 1,500 per month from the training alone.
Tulasi does not stand alone
In expanding the possibilities in her village, Tulasi receives a lot of support and this strengthens and encourages her. The EUC plays a proactive role in recommending her to schools and other institutes requiring tailoring services. As a member of the EUC, she is also entitled to other support from them. Her family supported her in expanding the workspace and, with the shop now formally registered, she is entitled to support from the Department of Cottage and Small Scale Industries.
With the change in her economic status, Tulasi is confident that she will be able to pay back the loan (including interest at 14 percent) within an estimated six months. Moreover, she will be able to meet the education, health and other needs of the family. Tulasi affirms proudly, “I no longer feel the need for support from my estranged husband, I feel able, both mentally and physically, to take care of myself, my child and my family. I no longer shy away from the prying eyes of the community or their attempts at social alienation.” She adds, “I am now a self-employed women and I want to thank Luxmididi (management representative of the co-operative) for encouraging me to participate in the basic enterprise training, and the cooperative and CRT – Nepal, the supporting organisation.”