Boosting skills and entrepreneurship
Following her engagement in the Rupantaran programme, a young girl in Nepal’s south is now using her skills to run a small tailoring business and helping to boost her family’s finances
Saptari, Nepal: For Sahira Khatun, her sewing machine is one of her most prized possessions. Not only does the 16-year-old spend a lot of time working on the machine in an effort to build her stitching skills, but – in enabling her to take on tailoring work for her neighbours and others in her community in Rupani Rural Municipality in Saptari District in Nepal’s southern plains – it is also a source of income.
“It’s very fulfilling to know that I am using my skills to help boost my family’s finances,” Sahira says.
Those latent skills, however, did not come to the fore until after Sahira took part in the local Rupantaran programme. In fact, Sahira’s life and prospects were a lot different just a year ago.
Sahira, who hails from the marginalized Muslim community in the plains, wasn’t given the opportunity to go to school, as is the case for many girls in the area. Most of her childhood was therefore spent doing domestic chores, taking care of her grandmother, and aiding her parents – agricultural wage-workers both – in whatever way she could.
But a year ago, Sahira was informed that Rupantaran sessions were about to be rolled out in the rural municipality. When she was approached by the facilitator in the process of identifying adolescent girls who were out of school to enroll in the programme, Sahira decided to go for it, a decision she says “changed her life.”
The Rupantaran life skills package is aimed at providing adolescents between 10 to 19 years of age the information and skills they need to navigate society and plan for their futures. The package includes a mix of social and financial skills training and covers a wide range of topics that are taught by locally based facilitators over the course of 21 weeks.
“I enjoyed being part of the classes so much,” Sahira says. “I was learning about so many different things, things I had no idea about before.”
Among these new things that Sahira was introduced to, was the process and prospects of starting micro enterprises. The young girl had already tried her hand at cutting and sewing prior to joining Rupantaran, but it was only after attending the sessions on entrepreneurship that the idea of using her skills to start a business began to form in her mind.
“I shared with the facilitator ‘didi’ (sister) about what I was thinking and asked her advice about what to do next,” Sahira says. “She suggested that we go talk to my parents about my plans and ask them for their support in setting things up.”
Sahira and the Rupantaran facilitator had a long conversation with Sahira’s mother, explaining to her how an initial investment in a sewing machine would help to get the business rolling. Although she didn’t have all of the funds right away, Sahira’s mother believed in the idea enough to take a loan from one of her neighbours and buy a machine.
There has been no looking back since then. Sahira was a quick-learner and had soon gathered several clients from around her community, building her business by word-of-mouth. Today, she is earning a decent amount through the tailoring work.
I like that I’m contributing to my family’s earnings,” Sahira says. “They’re happy, I’m happy.”
The Rupantaran package was developed by UNICEF and UNFPA, in partnership with the Nepal Government. The programme is currently being run across communities in Nepal as part of the UNFPA-UNICEF Global Programme to End Child Marriage, generously funded by the Governments of Belgium, Canada, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and the United Kingdom, the European Union and Zonta International