Tuesday July 16, 2019
Home Opinion Home-based wo...

Home-based women workers keep alive traditional weaves post-Nepal quake

0
//

By Sahana Ghosh

Kathmandu: Rendered homeless by the devastating April 25 earthquake, Nepal’s indomitable home-based women workers (HBW), who churn out the traditional hand-woven ‘Dhaka’ fabric, harnessed their exquisite craftsmanship to stitch relief material in the face of death and despair. Four months on, they are getting back to work to keep the legacy alive.

Kathmandu Struck By Powerful EarthquakeAround 2,800 HBWs working with the SAARC Business Association of Home Based Workers (Sabah Nepal) here are responsible for crafting the Dhaka fabric – unique geometrical patterns on pure cotton as well as natural fabrics from banana, nettle (called allo) and bamboo.

A metre of Dhaka takes up to five days to make, with most women putting in seven hours a day – either at their own home or at community facility centres in areas like Bhaktapur, Bungmati and Khokhana.

These weaves and fabrics are combined with Indian silks and khadi (which are quite popular in the country) in modern cuts to generate a whole range of designer jackets, dresses, blouses and kurtas for the fashion-conscious Nepali women, in addition to soft furnishings like cushion covers and bedsheets.

The temblor however stripped the HBWs of their livelihood as buildings collapsed and their community centres crumbled around them.

“Initially, they were in complete shock. They lost their homes. But with psycho-social counselling, they started to overcome that trauma. To keep them engaged and take their minds off the tragedy, the women were given the task of stitching tents and kit bags,” Mukta Shrestha, head of design at Sabah Nepal, told the visiting IANS correspondent.

So, they started to put together around 50 pieces of canvas-like heavy cloth of 12 x 15 ft to produce makeshift tents while they themselves struggle to come to terms with their losses.

“We received orders for 5,000 kit bags which were distributed as dignity kits for women. Since we didn’t have regular orders to give them, as business was completely down, they were occupied in stitching these relief materials,” Shrestha said.

The earthquake claimed the lives of over 8,000 people, injured over 22,000 and displaced over 100,000. It also affected the livelihood of over 2.28 million households and pushed an additional 700,000 people below the poverty line.

“At that time, many couldn’t come back to work. There was no way to communicate. But now, they are ready to start and more and more women want to do something to strengthen their livelihoods post the quake,” Shrestha said.

Sabah Nepal is a membership-based social-business organization which works towards strengthening the livelihoods of financially deprived and marginalized HBW. Funded by the SAARC Development Fund it empowers women in four different skill sectors — knitting, weaving, teaching and food.

Though the retail business is far from being normal, orders are coming in , she said.

Even as they recover from the tragedy, a fresh dilemma awaits – who will keep the art alive after they are gone?

The “scary part”, Shrestha revealed, is that the younger generation is not too keen to continue in their footsteps.

“Most of the HBWs are between 35 and 45. The weaving is purely manual and requires sharp vision. If the younger generation do not follow up, then how will this art flourish? We are encouraging them to join this profession but most are now educated and want better opportunities,” she added.

Natural disasters compound the problem for vulnerable groups, especially when there is no preparedness to deal with emergencies. Shrestha believed a cohesive community structure, such as that developed by the HBW, can help in regeneration of livelihoods.

In fact, the ‘Strategic Framework for Resilient Livelihoods in Earthquake-Affected Areas of Nepal’ report prepared by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), together with the National Planning Commission of the Nepalese government, stresses on promoting community empowerment through capacity building of community-based organizations, local government agencies and organizations and local businesses to participate in the livelihood recovery processes.

It also advocates creating employment opportunities for both women and men “equally in emergency employment and reconstruction processes”.

(IANS)

Next Story

Imposition of 10% Custom Duty on Book Import Impact Nepal’s Booksellers, Students

Many Nepali publishers print their books in India and earlier would have to pay 15 per cent tax. "Now they are asked to pay 10 per cent duty on total imports"

0
nepal, duty on books
With the customs duty and the added charges, it is going to be difficult to sell imported books to academic institutions, libraries and students. Wikimedia Commons

Even as Indian publishers are grappling with a budget proposal of 5 per cent customs duty on imported books, in close neighbour Nepal, a 10 per cent duty on books has left publishers and booksellers reeling, with students hit badly as Kathmandu imports over 80 per cent of its books from India.

A few days after the Nepal government on May 29 announced a 10 per cent duty on imported books, publishers stopped picking up books at the Nepal customs point in protest and have demanded roll back of the move. With no text books coming in to Nepal, the student community has been affected the most, say publishers.

“Around 80-90 per cent of books in Nepal are imported, and most of it from India. Now the students, including those in Classes 10 and 11, are not getting text books on time. The National Booksellers’ and Publishers’ Association of Nepal (NBPAN) has decided not to import any books in protest. We import 90-95 per cent of academic and text books from India,” a noted book seller in Kathmandu told IANS on phone, declining to be named.

According to Madhab Maharjan, Advisor NBPAN and owner of Mandala Book Point in Kathmandu, the 10 per cent customs duty will attract other taxes, like the cost, insurance and freight tax and other charges, further pushing up the price of imported books.

nepal, duty on books
According to Maharjan if India revokes the 5% duty on imported books the move “may help to revoke 10 per cent duty in Nepal too”. Wikimedia Commons

“Books all over the world are sold at the printed price. With the customs duty and the added charges, it is going to be difficult to sell imported books to academic institutions, libraries and students,” Maharjan told IANS over phone from Kathmandu.

He said they have requested the KP Sharma Oli government to remove the tax. “We have a long tradition of importing books from India. Religious books were imported from Benaras in the 20th century. Now the import of books is restricted to New Delhi,” said Maharjan, adding that scholars, academics and experts are raising their voices in protest against the move through the print and social media.

The 10 per cent tax will hamper the free flow of books and also affect the reading habit of students, says Maharjan. According to him, a Nepali journalist in an article in a local daily asked Finance Minister Yuba Raj Khatiwada, who is a PhD in economics, whether it was a theory of economics to impose the customs duty on books when the need was to improve the reading habits and culture of the people.

The reason for stopping the books at the customs point was because “as soon as we import we will have to increase the price, and secondly the old stocks have to be sold at the old price”.

“Thus there will be two prices of the book in one book store. This will create misunderstanding with students, readers, scholars, researchers and academics at large with whom we have to deal with everyday,” Maharjan said.

nepal, duty on books
Many Nepali publishers print their books in India and earlier would have to pay 15 per cent tax. “Now they are asked to pay 10 per cent duty on total imports. Wikimedia Commons

He added: “We do not want any one taking undue advantage of the situation, including politically motivating the students. Thus we have opted for this move not to import books till we come to a final decision.” According to him, the onset of the digital era has hit book sellers and publishers. “There are not many book shops left, and with moves like this book sellers may not survive for long.”

Many Nepali publishers print their books in India and earlier would have to pay 15 per cent tax. “Now they are asked to pay 10 per cent duty on total imports. The earlier system was better to protect the local industry,” Maharjan said.

ALSO READ: Is Budget 2019-20 a Hope for India’s Development?

The number of students pursuing higher education in Nepal under Management, Humanities, Science and Education stands at around 400,000, and they would be directly hit by the duty on books imported from India. According to Maharjan if India revokes the 5% duty on imported books the move “may help to revoke 10 per cent duty in Nepal too”.

K.P.R. Nair, Managing Director Konark Publishers in Delhi, said Indian publishers are aware of the situation in Nepal and are trying to help. “They have asked for our help, and we are going to help them,” Nair, a veteran in the publishing industry, told IANS. (IANS)