Women Rule The Roost

August 16, 2006 at 4:43 am Leave a comment

Women Rule The Roost

By Gagan Bista

April 30, 2006 – Baishak 17, 2063 

THE Tharu women of Patihani in Chitwan district toiled in other people s farms all day long. They did not own even a tiny piece of land. However, these women now own sewing machines. Having opened a cooperative with the money saved from stitching and sewing after acquiring vocational skills, they have no regrets about not owning land. These days they have begun to give loans to others, something that gives them immense pleasure.

Surprising
The number of families that making a living through sewing and knitting in the country is extremely low. Lower still is the number of such women. It is surprising to hear of people not only meeting household expenses from earnings from sewing and knitting but also managing to making some savings and using it to operate a cooperative. However, the landless women of an impoverished Tharu settlement in Patahara, Chitwan have opened a cooperative for themselves.

The Tharu community of Patahara in Patihani VDC, considered to be a remote area in Chitwan, is known for its poor farmers. They farm but do not posses even a tiny piece of land in t heir name. Working as helpers in other households for generations, community members have been living as landless squatters. With their vocational works Tharu women have been on the one hand meeting their families financial needs while on the other. They are saving money for the community and thus obviating the compulsion to take loans from employers.

The 35-family settlement of Tharu squatters is known by the name of Tharu Village. Its women have taken up sewing and knitting as a means of becoming self-dependant.

Cooperation and group work have been a tradition of the Tharu families. The formation of the Shristi Women s Cooperative Group, is a path-breaking exercise in the community. The group has made it obligatory to save ten per cent of monthly earnings. Every member of an income-earing family deposits her saving in the cooperative. The saved amount is lent to needy families in low interest rate. Says the group s President Moham Mahato: We have been successful in finding new employment by sewing and knitting. This work is attracting us and made it easier to earn income. By using the savings to educate children and provide loans at low interest rates, Tharu families have benefited a lot.

As per their ancestral tradition, Tharu men work as agricultural labourers on the fields of landlords and perform songs and dances for livelihood. Most of them are illiterate. The level of social awareness is abysmal. But now the women of the community are drawn towards a new vocation to escape poverty and lack of awareness. They have identified a source of earnings necessary to fulfill their goals. This small settlement of landless people is greatly attracted to the savings drive. While women are educating their children with their earnings, men keep the household running with wages they received.

Women make up 60 per cent of the community s 300 members. Capable women are interested in new training. Women of one and a half dozen families are engaged in sewing and knitting. They have also been encouraging other women to join the vocation. Says Sita Mahato, who is engaged in sewing and knitting: Learning the skill has helped us with household expenses

According to Mahato, women involved in the vocation earn between Rs. 3,000 to Rs 5,000 every month. The amount saved from the earnings has made it easier to start new group works, she adds. The group s President Mohani says that products of women are also being sold o foreign tourists. Inspired by the women s group, the male youths of the community have opened the Shristi Youth Club. Like the women s group, the Youth Club is also striving to alleviate poverty, illiteracy and ignorance prevalent in the Tharu community. The Club s President Prashanta Mahato says club is trying to raise social awareness and emulate the work of the women s group. He says: It has made a substantial contribution to our community s development.

Women have made a highly important contribution to making the Tharu Village independent. Says Shanti Mahato, a contributor to the effort: We have developed a culture of doing our own work. We have benefited from it. Actively engaged in sewing and knitting work, over one and a half dozen women like Asani Mahato, Renu Mahato and Basmati Mahato have made it a habit to save a part of their income. Although they lack access to banks, they save whatever little amount they ca in the group. This practice has reportedly made a positive influence in neighbouring villages as well.

The women say they have made savings to the tune of Rs. 50,000. The Tharu families have done lots of community development work with the savings. But they complain that the earnings are not sufficient for livelihood. Educating their children and acquiring skills are a big challenge for them. They say that the Royal Chitwan National Park and Hotel Narayani Safari have been providing financial assistance to them. These organisations have been helping Tharu women a lot by providing them training and taking their goods to foreigners, says President Mohani. Model

The improvement in their families living standard and overall condition of their settlement brought about by women of landless families has become a role model. Tharu families have started a tradition of solving their problems collectively. What they have achieved in spite of their landless status is indeed exemplary.

Sancharika Samuha

source:: www.gorkhapatra.org.np

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Entry filed under: Articles.

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