Co-authored by Vinita Thapa, Media &communications Coordinator, Save the Children in Nepal
Sangita was only 17 when her family married her off. At an age where girls generally go to schools, play and enjoy their childhood she was compelled to shoulder household responsibilities. At 21, she is now a mother to a beautiful three-year-old daughter who constantly smiles and is very smart just like her mother.
Majority of the girls living in Achham, the far west region of Nepal have a life very similar to Sangita. Getting married at an early age is a tradition that families follow religiously – education, getting a job or having choices always take a back seat in these communities. Sangita too was confined within the walls of her house where all she was expected to do was cater to her child and families need, help her mother-in-law with the household chores and work in the field whenever time allowed.
Sangita however had dreams – dreams of acquiring a skill that would help her live a different life where she would be able to do more than just household chores or look after her family. Luckily, she heard of the micro-enterprise training – a five day training where youths like her are taught about the basics of starting a business, dealing with customers, logging in their profit and loss and coming up with their own business plan. She applied for the training and was soon informed that she was selected.
Overjoyed and nervous, she told her family about the training who were also supportive of her decision. She says, “I had never been on any trainings before and attending a micro-enterprise training was a big deal for me. I was so excited but also very nervous because I did not know what to expect from it.”
The five day training was conducted in a community building where facilitators through practical session trained them on how to start their own business. Sangita shares,
“During the training I not only learned how could one set up a business locally but I also learned how to deal with customers, how to save money, keep logs of daily profit and loss along with ideas on how to keep the business growing.”
Towards the end of the training Sangita came up with a plan to open a tailoring shop in her village. However, she changed her plan and decided to open a grocery shop at her home because a tailoring shop would require practice, stitching techniques and a lot more time which she could not devote due to her young daughter.
She started her shop in a small room of her house with self – investment of NPR 31,000 and a loan of NPR 33,000 from a cooperative. She says, “Starting the grocery shop was not easy but I had a lot of support from my family. The day when I had my first customer I was so happy that I do not have words to describe it.”
While few of her family members were supportive, some also said the shop will be short-lived and she will be unable to pay back the loan causing the family more problems. However, a year later she is still running the shop and manages to attract many customers from her village as well as the school close to her house. She says, “People visit my shop regularly and I earn around 800 – 1100 NPR every day. So far, I have been able to pay back NPR 20, 000 from the loan I took and in a few months I should be able to pay the remaining NPR 13,00 as well.”
She also contributes in household expenses and has been a huge support to her husband who works in India. Every single day Sangita derives energy from her husband who is not close to her but is extremely proud of her achievements. She says,
The grocery shop has not only helped Sangita financially but it has empowered her in many ways she never imagined. “I am more confident about myself and the decisions I make these days because I know I have a set of skills in my hand that no one can take away from me,” says Sangita. Her confidence radiates from her eyes when she says – “Whether this shop runs or not I am not scared anymore because I know I will be able to start a new business on my own.”