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Monday, July 22, 2024

Knitting a brand new path: How an opportunity assembly modified every thing

Suryamaya Thapa was knitting in secret, hiding her craft expertise from her husband and her disabilities from the surface world, when a last-minute determination modified the trajectory of her life.  

Suryamaya lived within the bustling hub of Kathmandu however she most well-liked to remain indoors – when she went out, she was typically mocked for her disabilities. So, she’d keep in, knitting whereas her husband was at work.  

Naturally, when her neighbour steered she accompany her to a free workshop that taught girls how one can promote garments and different merchandise they’d made, she was hesitant to affix her.  

However, with some encouragement, Suryamaya went alongside and met a younger Australian, Steph Wollard, who’d organized that coaching day. The opposite girls who’d joined the workshop made garments and different craft items, similar to Suryamaya. And so they all tuned in to discover ways to hone their expertise and promote their items for revenue. 

After assembly the ladies that day and listening to their tales, Steph needed to supply extra girls in Nepal with expertise coaching and schooling to generate an earnings and energy their independence. 

She went on to discovered Seven Ladies in 2006 and spent 17 years serving to to teach and make use of hundreds, each in-person and with digital coaching, earlier than handing the organisation over to native management in 2023. Whereas staying true to it’s authentic mission, Seven Ladies morphed into it’s subsequent part of philantrophy and have become Sungabha Nepal

Suryamaya began working with the organisation – making garments and incomes a gradual earnings as an worker – shortly after its inception in 2006, and he or she’s nonetheless there immediately. However she’s hardly the identical particular person she was when she joined virtually 20 years in the past.  

Discovering power amid materials scraps 

As we sit collectively on the ground of a tiny workplace above the stitching room at Sungabha Nepal – fragrant, freshly brewed chai in hand – Suryamaya quietly explains how totally different her outlook was earlier than she got here right here. ‘I had a mindset that I can’t exit, or I can’t work,’ she says.  

She paused momentarily earlier than putting her heat mug on the small espresso desk in entrance of her. ‘More often than not, individuals round me additionally used to tease me, like, bully me. So I most well-liked to remain inside my house.’  

She advised me she would come to the advanced, hidden within the coronary heart of chaotic Kathmandu, on daily basis. She’d deal with enhancing her knitting and studying new trades like stitching, crocheting and felt weaving earlier than she chanced on her ardour for tailoring. 

Like many different girls who discover hope within the form of the quaint two-storey advanced stuffed with stitching machines and craft items, Suryamaya got here to study new expertise. She didn’t anticipate that she’d additionally discover confidence, independence and power. 

‘Due to my bodily incapacity, my legs weren’t robust, my fingers weren’t robust. So, my thoughts was additionally not robust. I used to really feel very scared when individuals would come to speak to me,’ she confesses. 

She smiles, ‘After getting concerned right here, I felt I obtained a type of confidence. I needed to face lots of people. And since I had some expertise in my hand, I used to be actually empowered.’ 

Small steps, huge influence 

Nepal continues to be, for essentially the most half, a patriarchal society so girls are anticipated to remain house and full family chores whereas the boys exit to work. 

Add bodily disabilities to an already hefty checklist of boundaries for ladies coming into the workforce, and the earnings that grants them independence appears practically inconceivable to achieve. 

‘I really feel like I’m not disabled anymore as a result of I’m handled nicely, like different in a position individuals.’ 

However Suryamaya was decided to construct a brand new life free from stigmas and gender inequality.  

‘I actually wish to encourage different girls,’ she says. ‘Let’s not depend upon anybody else and attempt to study one thing so that you just’ll be capable to be impartial and dwell the life that you really want.’ 

Schooling and job alternatives can change the lifetime of a person. However, greater than that, it helps change society’s notion of ladies and folks dwelling with disabilities.  

‘I really feel like I’m not disabled anymore as a result of I’m handled nicely, like different in a position individuals.’ 

A style of Nepali tradition 

Stuffed with inspiration after sitting down with Suryamaya, I made my method to the big kitchen out the again the place the staff run conventional cooking lessons for travellers, one other one of many methods Sungabha Nepal creates employment alternatives for ladies. I threw on one in every of their hand-made aprons and chef’s hats, every matching with maroon and navy patchwork, and did my greatest to observe together with their native cooking teacher. 

In the identical means the comfortable craft workshop helps help girls with expertise coaching and employment, these cooking lessons give native girls an opportunity to share a chunk of their tradition with travellers whereas incomes an earnings with their expertise. 

The cooking lessons give travellers a real style of Nepali tradition.

With a small group of simply 5 different girls on Intrepid’s Nepal Ladies’s Expedition, I chopped greens, added spices and stirred steaming pots of liquid till my coronary heart was content material. On the finish of the category, we sat down collectively and loved the normal dahl bhat and sticky rice pudding we’d created below the steerage of our charismatic native trainer.  

On my means out, I handled myself to a bit of hand-made retail remedy within the small present store of their courtyard. The entire items right here – hand-made garments, crocheted toys and candy equipment – are made with love by the ladies working there, together with Suryamaya. Now, that’s a memento with a distinction. 

You possibly can go to Sungabha Nepal, be part of a cooking class for your self and get your fingers on some hand-made items on Intrepid’s Nepal: Ladies’s Expedition or Premium Nepal. 

Word: Suryamaya and I swapped tales with the assistance of a translator who shared my questions with Suryamaya in Nepali and her responses with me in English. All photos by Yvette Scott.

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