The Business of Knitting: Nepali Women Earn Money and Keep Families Warm
The April and May 2015 earthquakes in Nepal left 8,891 people dead, more than 600,000 houses destroyed and a further 290,000 damaged. During the height of the emergency, almost 190,000 people were displaced, many of whom have since returned to their places of origin. Though two and a half years have passed since the earthquakes, many are still displaced or struggling to reconstruct their houses and recover their livelihoods. To address the ongoing need, People In Need, in partnership with Apeiron, initiated a livelihood recovery project in Sindupalchowk district of Nepal, funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic.
Our aim was simple: through this project, we wanted to support the return of those displaced by the earthquakes and strengthen their ability to recover livelihoods. To this end, we taught 400 women the new skill of knitting so that they could keep their families warm and sell their products. We also provided livelihood recovery support which included business trainings and small grants to a further 300 families to help them re-establish their livelihoods.
Knitting for the Community
During the one month long knitting training, 400 displaced and returnee women learned to knit and produced a huge number of colourful, handmade items, including 1204 hats, 811 pairs of socks and 1038 mufflers, which were distributed to the community to keep them warm during the winter. For completing this training and creating their products, the women earned money. With this income they were able to pay for reconstruction works on their houses, buy household items or fund their studies. 21 years old Sushma says, “The training was effective and I have gained a new skill now. I knitted two woolen caps and socks for my brother and nephew after receiving this training. It was the first time ever I held knitting needles. For the first week, it was quite hard. However, as we went on learning, it started to become easier and enjoyable.” Sushma used the money she earned from the knitting training to pay for her studies and support her family with ongoing household expenses.
The colourful creations were distributed by PIN and Apeiron to the community. 800 individuals including the elderly, people with disabilities and pregnant women received these hand-made winter items, and a further 483 items were distributed in local schools. Mr. Tara Bahadur Shrestha, 85, says, “My youngest daughter-in-law got a chance to participate in one month’s knitting training. She learned knitting and got a chance to earn some money. That money is a big amount for a poor family like ours. I am very happy to receive the winterization kit knitted by our own daughters and daughters-in-law and making old people like us warm. We are happy that this project came to our village and hope you will bring new projects to help us.”
The house of Mr. Tara Bahadur Shrestha’s neighbour, Ms. Lal Kumari Shrestha, who is now 95 years old, collapsed during the earthquakes. She currently lives with her nine family members in a temporary shelter they built. She says, “My son works as a laborer. My daughters-in-law work in the fields and they take good care of me. The cold season has come and this season is very hard for old people like us. [The] organization gave us warm socks, hat and muffler. I am very happy to receive this winterization kit and hope you will cover all the needy and old people like us and make them warm.”
The other livelihood activities we undertook as part of this project included business literacy trainings, technical trainings and cash grants which were given to 300 families in order to help them recover from the effects of the earthquakes. Following a market assessment which we conducted jointly with district level authorities, the trainees were encouraged and taught how to develop business plans and implementation strategies with available local resources – they learned the basics of record keeping, analysis of profit and loss, and other business related know-how. Additionally, technical vocational trainings were given to the trainees to enhance their knowledge of poultry farming, animal husbandry, and agriculture for sustainability. Following the trainings, PIN and Apeiron distributed small cash grants to the participants for them to use as an initial investment in their business plans. Most participants chose goat farming as their preferred business activity, though some will also restart poultry farming, vegetable farming and other agricultural activities. Through the vocational trainings, PIN and Apeiron connected local communities with government service centers to ensure that people were aware about the government’s policies and programs which can strengthen their businesses and livelihoods. The connections were made also to promote the sustainability of the project and show community members where to look for information and support provided by district level authorities.