Chini Maya Negi from Manikhel, Mahankal Rural Municipality, Lalitpur District is 45 years old and used to be a dedicated housewife. She struggled through the worst economic state of her family, caring for a paralyzed brother in law and a husband doing nothing. The family was facing difficulty in running the day to day life and deep down in loan. The Maoist insurgency of 1996 brought additional difficulties to her family, with the Nepali Force accusing them of supporting the Maoists. Few months later, her husband Buddha Bahadur Negi left for Saudi Arab for employment. During this time, she also gave birth to a baby boy and on the same day her mother passed away. She could not perform the last rituals for her mother which was the most traumatic moment in her life. Chini Maya’s challenges did not end here, after a few months of foreign employment her husband fell ill and was back to square one, with him out of work and less income for the family. Today Chini Maya walks a different path, trading down the hard path full of challenges; she has established herself as a role model in her community. Currently, she runs an oil factory and a paper production company. In parallel, she runs two minor companies: On the waste of the oil company she grows mushrooms and in a greenhouse made out of plastic a variety of herbs.
Chini Maya’s new life
In 1995, Chini Maya initiated a savings group with women neighbors under her own leadership. The group of 28 women started to save small amounts of money monthly, which after a while allowed them to buy essential goods and help each other. Coming together as a group also strengthened them to take action against prejudices in a male-dominated society. Saving money has turned out to be a winning choice. The savings group still running even after 24 long years with Chini Maya as its chairperson. The group also started to work against gender-based violence, taking action against the perpetrators. She even provided space to the victimised women in her home even while she herself was in a difficult time.
“People called for her help if any men misbehaved with the wife. With her group, she provided a solution. She has a leadership attitude and speaks against injustice in society since I know her. The family members and society used to talk behind our backs. However, I was always with her because I know she was not doing anything wrong. After I came back to Nepal we decided to work here in Nepal, we support each other then and now, and we are here now”- Buddha Bahadur Negi (Husband of Chini Maya Negi)
In 2019, Chini Maya participated in a training on enterprise and business management as part of the project “Strengthening the Capacity of the Energy Sector to Deliver Gender Equality and Social Inclusion Results”, led by ENERGIA/Hivos and funded by ADB and SIDA. The training was jointly implemented by Centre for Rural Technology, Nepal (CRT/N), Practical Action Consulting (PAC) and National Association of Community Electricity Users Nepal (NACEUN).
During the training she learnt more about the positive aspects of registering the paper production company to her name instead of her husband’s. Once finished the training, she acquired a Permanent Account Number (unique identification number issued to all taxpayers) and in coordination with the Community Rural Electric Entity (CREE) in her community, she obtained a grid connection for her two major enterprises.
Alongside the new opportunities and the acquired skills, Chini Maya said that the training has helped build her confidence to scale up her business. She however, feels that she needs to learn more aspects of running a business, particularly about accounting systems, maintaining and checking the quality of her products, how to tap into new markets, how to access loans and deal with difficulties in the loan acquisition process, and how to deal with brokers killing the market.
With the support of the trainers and mentors of the project, she now has access to electricity and a loan at a reasonable interest rate. Chini Maya plans to buy necessary machineries for processing and improving the quality of her oil and increase the paper production. This step forward will enable her to create new job opportunities in her community. Around 90 women and 10 men are already involved in the collection of the herbs and she plans to engage more employees within her paper company. She is interested in adopting efficient energy systems in this business as well to access new market opportunities.
Chini Maya now has full support of her husband in her work. She is truly an inspiration to other women. Nowadays, people come to her to ask for advice. She says that women are left behind because of their own poor mentality. They fear about what the community, family and neighbours say-worrying for nothing. However, changes are taking place at a slow pace. “While I visit women’s groups, I find women talking about business and career. Before they just used to talk about other people. It takes time to become successful but if you try you definitely will one day. ” said Chini Maya