Article publié dans Friday Weekly (Népal)

A sewing woman’s empowerment

Founded to support and provide education to underprivileged kids, Children and Youth First now also encourages empowerment among the women of Jhamsikhel. The evolution of the organization not only speaks of the importance of women, but also the need to enhance their skills, while also giving them newer opportunities to succeed.

It all started on a December night in 2008 when a micro-van whisked away 14 kids from an orphanage in Balaju.

It was not a kidnapping.

"We rescued those orphans," explains Haushala Thapa, director of Children and Youth First, who instigated the action. A few weeks after she had started volunteering at the shelter, Haushala noticed that the children were "fed only chiura and weren't attending school.” So, along with some friends, she decided to take the children out of the orphanage, with the will to offer them a better life. Things weren't very rosy for a while after that night. Because Haushala had rescued the kids on impulse, she didn't have anywhere to take them. Haushala's acquaintances didn't want to support her without guarantees, as the group that consisted of her friends and the kids, wasn't legally registered. For a whole month, the children lived in a flat under restraining conditions. As a result, the orphans were confused and started doubting Haushala's motives. "It was the most difficult situation we've been in so far,” she reveals.

Fortunately, the group received the help of Prema Zimba, the head of Life Vision Academy in Bhaktapur, who offered to take the children into her school for free. It was only then that Children and Youth First (CYF) was legally registered. The NGO then started to provide quality education to children of single parents.

Even though CYF has a hostel that can house 50 youngsters, the organization shouldn't be considered another orphanage, says its director. The NGO has sometimes had to deal with parents looking to discard their children, but CYF wants the kids to keep a connection with their parents.  "We want to provide progress reports to the parents so that they know what level their kids have reached,” says Haushala.

Children's education isn't CYF's only concern. The NGO developed a program to make sure the economic standards of single parents could increase at the same time, and in 2012, the NGO established knitting and sewing workshops. In the beginning, the workshops consisted only of single mothers, but through word of mouth, some women from Jhamsikhel, where CYF's office is located, got to know about it. Seeing their interest, CYF gradually opened its doors to the women of the community.

Ashmita is one of them. "I like the fact that l'm not forced to stay from 9 to 5;” she says. The trainees can drop in whenever they're free. They learn and get paid for each item they make. But it's not just about earning money; it's also about allowing women to express themselves freely. Jamuna, assistant trainer at CYF, enjoys these moments with her friends, sharing their problems and resolving them together. When she joined CYF two years ago, Jamuna hardly knew how to sew. 'Tve improved a lot since, and I'm happy to be able to teach my sisters,” she says.

CYF's workshops are open to all women, even to those from wealthy families, as Haushala clarifies. For two years now, these gatherings have fostered empowerment among the women. Before joining CYF, Kamala remembers sitting idle at home. “I’ve always wanted to get out and do something. Now I have new abilities, and feel useful,” she reveals. Pammi, who is from Darjeeling in India, came to CYF when the training sessions were just starting. At that time, she had been facing problems of her own - financial and personal. "Being part of CYF changed my life,” she says with sigh."Even during difficult times, CYF was always there to support me".Kamala, Jamuna, and Pammi all reveal that they' re proud to be a part of CYF. They repeat the words "freedom" and "independent" often while talking about their new lives with the NGO. "We're so lucky to be learning constantly,” says Pammi.

Under the instructions of Laetitia Darou, an employee of H&M in Paris, who is in Nepal to run a two-week workshop at CYF for a volunteering programme called Congé Solidaire (supported by the French association Planète Urgence), the ladies will learn a lot more. "CYF needed a person with a fresh eye, someone with a knowledge of the designs that are saleable outside our country,” explains Haushala. Indeed, the NGO has aims to increase its sales abroad - they're already exporting to Austria, France, and the USA. According to Haushala, Laetitia's arrival has given a boost to the women working and training at CYF.

"By the end of the workshop the girls will know how to make new stuff such as scarves, shopping bags, camera bags, and bags for the disabled - all with the material they've been using before.” says Laetitia Darou.

Laetitia didn't know what to expect from her trainees before arriving in Nepal. But, she's been pleasantly surprised: "They learn so quickly. They can reproduce an item perfectly just by looking at a picture. They also sew better with lesser materials compared to their French counterparts". While observing the women working at CYF, one can feel it's a two-way workshop: Laetitia has been learning from her trainees too. "The girls are teaching me how to keep it simple, which is my company's code;' she says. And the sharing goes beyond design and knitting. "They taught me how to bargain with Nepali shopkeepers too:' smiles Darou. 

CYF and Laetitia Darou will be showcasing the items produced du ring the workshop at an exhibition at Base Camp in Arun Thapa Chowk, Sanepa on Thursday 19 June, 5 p. m. onwards.

From Mauritius, Stéphane Huët, works in print and radio, in France and Nepal,and likes writing about culture and sports. ln September 2012, he was selected by Radio France 1 nternationale (RFI) to be a blogger on Mondoblog. Children and Youth First: http://, and cyf.organ Planète Urgence:


Source : Friday Weekly (Népal)

Date de publication : 04/07/2014