Wool beanie, fully lined with assorted flower embroidery and colors.
Most of Ganesh Himal’s knit items are knit by women in their homes while their children are in school. Organized into small neighborhood groups, one woman is elected as a team leader. The team leader picks up the pre dyed wool and delivers the wool and orders weekly. She then will pick up the finished product and deliver them to the main office. Once at the main office they do the finishing, lining and final quality control. For Nepali women it is vital to be able to work in their homes while caring for their children and at the same time gain a fair income. This income gives them a larger voice in their homes and allows many to keep their children in school.
It almost seems too simple: a skein of wool saving a life. For women of Nepal, beaten down by a complex and consuming social status, wool is a welcome reality.
Hasroon is one of these women. Hasroon was married at 18 and living a happy life with her infant son and husband . . . until her in-laws began demanding dowry money. When Hasroon’s family couldn’t pay, she was beaten, humiliated, and ultimately covered with gasoline, pushed into the bathroom, and set on fire. Today, Hasroon works for Padhma Creations, a social enterprise founded by Kesang Yudron. Padhma is the Sanskrit word for lotus, the flower that emerges pure and white from the muddy swamp. Kesang believes it is a fitting symbol for the women artisans, like Hasroom, who work at Padhma Creations. Padhma Creations gives Hasroon the training and job she needs to provide a secure and supportive life for her and her son.
Padhma Creations partners with women from neighboring villages of Nepalgunj, Bardiya, and Surkhet in Nepal. Wool is divided among their families who then make berets, scarves, socks, and other items in their homes or in shelters for women without homes. These woolens are then sold, and the money reinvested in programs to support the artisans and their children. Kesang thought of the idea in 2000 when she and her father visited Nepalgunj, a border town between Nepal and India.
“I remember being shocked at the sight of a 13-year-old village girl being rescued from trafficking by the police,” Kesang said. “The story was that a distant relative of hers had intentions of selling her to a brothel in Mumbai. This incident created a lasting and profound impression on my life.”
Thousands of young Nepali women are trafficked to India every year for prostitution, child labor, and slavery, Kesang said.
Others are victims of domestic abuse. All have no jobs or paying skills. “Padhma Creations not only helps these women but saves their families from a life of spiraling poverty. [In addition,] we want to raise awareness about the lives of people in other countries,” Kesang said. “Our hope is to influence a new generation of empathetic young adults who will be socially conscious consumers.”
Or, like Kesang, they’ll become entrepreneurs investing in human life worldwide.