Fashion Revolution Week 2017 at LWH

In 2013 an eight-story commercial building in Bangladesh collapsed killing 1,129 garment workers and injuring over 2,500. It was this tragedy that prompted the world to wake up to the adverse effects of fast fashion, an industry neglecting human rights and encouraging inequality.

On April 24th 2013, the Rana Plaza factory workers were producing clothes for popular western brands, including Primart, Bennetton, Walmart & Mango. Clothes that were produced cheap - so cheap that working conditions and human rights were compromised.

Four years on, brands like those mentioned above are still profiting from fast fashion, and despite pressure to increase transparency there are still many human rights violations and slavery occurring in the fashion industry.

Fashion Revolution Week is a week to remember not only those lives lost in the Rana Plaza tragedy, but to also raise awareness about the implications that fast fashion has on our world today, both socially and environmentally.

Nepal has become one country where western brands look to for cheap labour. It is estimated that 1.6 million children in Nepal are child laborers, and many garment workers (predominantly women) earn less than than $3 per day, with some only earning $1 a day.

When Nasreen (founder of LWH) was just a child she experienced what it was like to be forced into child labour. She worked for 15 hours a day getting paid as little as $5. It was those experiences that inspired her to start LWH, and provide opportunity and empowerment to women in the garment industry in Nepal.  

Since then Nasreen has trained over 100 women in the art of textile production and helped them discover new opportunities in their lives. Many of the women have come from underprivileged backgrounds and been victim to the social stigmas that still surround women in Nepal, including stereotypical gender roles and oppression. You can read some of the women’s stories here.

The women here at LWH have opportunity because they are treated equally. There is no discrimination at LWH, adhering to principle 6 of the 10 principles of fair trade -  Commitment to Non Discrimination, Gender Equity and Women’s Economic Empowerment, and Freedom of Association.

Fast fashion does not promote equality, and it does not promote fair trade. If you expect to purchase a new t-shirt for $2 how much do you think the garment worker was paid to make that t-shirt? Watch the 2 Euro experiment here and see for yourself.

Fast fashion has created an expectation in the western world that clothes are cheap when in fact they are not. Somewhere, someone is paying. The global textile and garment industry (including textile, clothing, footwear and luxury fashion) is currently worth nearly $3 trillion dollars, yet workers and producers are still earning less than $1 per day. H&M hit £1.7 billion profit in 2016 with its 52 fashion seasons, while in Bangladesh garment workers earn £44 a month, a quarter of the nation’s monthly living wage.

If, in the western world, we found out that someone was getting paid below minimum wage there would be an outcry, yet here in developing countries we turn a blind eye to it. Sure living costs are lower but that does not mean we should expect someone to work hours on end for $1. These people are artisans, carrying on weaving traditions from centuries ago and yet we believe we are entitled to pay nothing for these garments. How do you tell an artist their work is not worth anything? 

People still come into the LWH shop daily trying to bargain prices. They must see that a bag is not just a bag. It is craftsmanship, a work of art created by hand. The prices marked on these products are to ensure these artists get a fair wage. Every dollar bargained is a dollar taken away from an artisan, a human just like us. 

This is why we need to start looking at our clothing and our products as works of art crafted by hand. They are in fact artworks, every stitch woven by a woman, a daughter, a wife, a mother...

This is why the Fashion Revolution prompts us to ask "Who made my clothes?" and build the relationship between the consumer and the producer. 

This year we will be participating in Fashion Revolution Week here in Nepal. Last year during Fashion Revolution Week (18-24th April), over 70,000 people around the world asked brands #whomademyclothes?, which reached 156 million organic impressions (the number of times our conversation appeared in people’s social media feeds.).

This means that people are starting to make a stand against fast fashion, and look at more sustainable practices such as fair trade and environmentally friendly production. Here at LWH we adhere to the 10 principles of fair trade, and we have also produced our own range of products made from recycled materials such as recycled Saris. You can view some of our recycled products here.

You can also make a stand against fast fashion. Ask your brands “Who made my clothes?” or better yet, shop fair trade brands that you know are 100% ethical.


We are the change and we are the voice.

Outdated tradition or suitable partnership?

Nepal has the 3rd highest rate of child marriage in Asia (Source: UNICEF). Most of these marriages were either arranged by parents or voluntarily “arranged” due to social, educational and economic factors. As reported by some sources, until today 90% of marriages in Nepal are still arranged. An alarming number of 37% of Nepali girls marry before they turn 18 and 10% even before they are 15 years old (Online: http://www.girlsnotbrides.org/6-facts-you-need-to-know-about-child-marriage-in-nepal/).

                                         

Divorce rates of love marriages in the US are about 40 – 50%, while in average only 4% of arranged marriages get divorced (Online: http://www.everythingengagement.

com/definition-of-marriage/arranged-marriage-statistics.html). At first sight the percentage suggests, that in countries where marriages have been forced or arranged, relationships turn out to be more succesful. To understand the statistics one however has to consider the cultural circumstances. Countries that practice arranged marriages are more likely not to support divorces. In my opinion there are good and bad aspects about arranged marriages, but they are definitely not the recipe for a happy and ever-lasting relationship.

 

Arranged marriages in Hinduismus date back to the Vedic Era in 500 BC and originate in the patriarchal believe, that women needed life-long male guardianship to avoid promiscutity. Within this system the woman was first controled by her father, followed by her husband and finally by her son (Online: http://www.culturalindia.net/

weddings/arranged-marriage.html). From the first year of life, the aim and responsability of parents in India and Nepal, is therefore to find a (suitable) husband for their daughter. I have experienced that a girl from my village has been promised to a boy aged 12, when she was only ten years old. As soon as she turned 16, they got married and she got pregnant.

 

I was born and raised in a small village near the Nepali-Indian border, where from the very first year of life, a girl learns that her main goal in life will be her marriage. I have experienced myself, that my parents have been concerned about finding a husband for me for my entire life and when I finally turned 18 the pressure became almost unbearable. Since my 10th year of age, I started to grab every small occasion to slowly be able to make adjustments to my life. Taking all the opportunities I found, I started to make changes step by step, to learn and to understand. I realized that before getting married and especially instead of being forced to do it, I needed to study and to become aware of who I am and what I want to do with my precious life.

 

What I was most afraid of, was the lifetime commitment to a man I had never seen before. Normally, when a girl in my village doesn’t agree on the marriage, she is forced to do it. I have seen a girl from the rural countryside that cried heartbrakingly for the whole wedding ceremony under her heavy jewelry and her pretty make-up. But forced marriages are not only traumatising for girls, boys suffer too. They feel the pressure of society and are brainwashed, being told that to become a full man, they must earn money and maintain their families. Under this social burden, men frequently become aggressive against their wives.

 

In an arranged marriage your parents - who are supposed to know you best - will choose a girl or a boy that fits to you according to a series of different factors. Those are religion, the cast, the financial and social status, the family reputation, physical similarity and similar skills – it is all about the outside appereance and not about the heart. A boy from my family was persuaded to marry a girl he had never met before. They had the possibility to talk to each other on the phone a couple of times, but they were so shy that they couldn’t even get to know each other. After the wedding, they realized they didn’t get along at all, even though both are respectful and beautiful people. Parents are normally convinced that this superficial matching will make the young couple happy, but it most of the times it doesn’t.

 

Even though Nepal has officially banned child marriage in 1963, the government is now developing a plan to officially end it until 2030. Human Rights Watch however found out, that arranged child marriage is almost never legally avoided or punished. An increasingly common phenomenon are so called love-arranged marriages, especially between children and teens. The reasons to voluntarily choose to marry at a young age – some as young as 12 or 13 - are multiple: hunger and poverty might awaken the desire to escape home, as well as social pressure, violence and abuse at home or child labor. Gossip in the village might further contribute to rush into a marriage with a teenage lover, especially because of possible pregnancy or even only the fear of it (Online: https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/11/10/nepals-child-love-marriages-need-regulation-too).

 

The biggest problem in this matter is the lack of education, because young girls and boys don’t know about the consequences of sexual intercourse and marriage. Girls are compelled to leave school at a young age and go through severe health problems when getting pregnant as children, they might further easily slip into domestic violence.

 

Watch this powerful and informative video to know more about child marriage:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=50&v=zjBE331X5RQ

 

 

In my opinion, arranged marriage can have positive aspects, but only if it is not forced upon neither children nor adults and if both parties agree on the connection. What I feel most powerful about traditional arranged marriages in Nepal, is the cultural strength based on family support. Arranged marriages are not only the conjunction of two people, but rather the encounter between two families. This can be something really powerful and beautiful, as long as the bride and the groom find love, beauty and especially respect andtrust in each other.

 

If the marriage proves not to work out, family will always be there to comfort the wife as as well as the husband. On the one hand, the support of parents might turn out to be positive, making the couple think and try to fix the relationship by changing their attitudes toward each other. In arranged marriages, the couple might be more willing to put effort into adapting a relationship, since there mostly are not other choices. On the other hand, familial and social pressure might force a couple to remain together because of traditional believes and matters of reputation even though it will only bring sadness and frustration to them. Dirvorce rate in Asia is really low, because the society is scared of change and of confronting problems.

 

The worst thing is however, if the husband is not ready to take this commitment serious and to build up his life with his wife. It happened to many women who work for LWH, they were abbandoned with three children or more, because their husband left them for a younger girl. Most of these women were married at the young age of 15 and had only restricted access to education.

 

Your parents are supposed to know you better than any other people in the world, but still they might not be qualified to choose the person for you, whom you will be commited to for probably the rest of your life. In my ideal view, a love-arranged marriage might combine the benefits of two kinds of relations. If you could present a boy or a girl from another country to your parents and they would create a connection to the other family, two traditions and cultures could learn and profit from eacht other. The rituals and traditions taking place before the wedding are beautiful in Nepal, a big feast is prepared, the bride goes through a series of ayurvedic treatements and her beauty is exposed in the best way.

 

Unfortunately, many traditionally oriented people with little education in Nepal think you loose your culture if you fall in love with someone from another country. Out of a restricted and ignorant way of thinking, your own family might even outcast you. I wish that families could be curious enough to get to know another culture through the enriching conjunction of two people who fell in love. Most young people nowadays want to grow, to learn, to discover. Change is in the air and I think it is a beautiful thing. Forced marriage should not come in the way of your path.

 

Honesty should be the basic and main goal in a relationship or a marriage – indipendently if forced, arranged or love-based. The commitment and respect for the other person are the most important features in a relationship, but if one or both parties realize that their conjunction doesn’t work out even though they tried, it is better to let go instead of suffering.

 

By taking every opportunity that opens up to you and by making one step at a time, you will be able to make changes for yourself and for society. The most important thing is to become aware of yourself, to build up your own knowledge and understand who you are and which impact you can make for yourself and society. And only after that you might be prepared to consider to marriage. Life is short live life with love and Harmony.:)

 

 

 

By oppressing one you oppress all.

Today is March 8th 2017 international women’s day. From a week I was keeping some of my time out and preparing the day event with 50 to 60 people.

I was nervous and excited too. I was nervous because I am taking one new steps in my life. I am trying to not only work with Nepali society but with the people from all around the world. My whole vision for this event was how can I introduce one culture to another and make our world a into one, So Nepali women and the people who are participating can have best experience.

Early in the morning I woke up. Reorganize my entire whole task.

I met everyone at 11:30am.

All of local women were ready they all looked so gorgeous with red traditional Tikka and some cool jewelers and red colorful outfit. They were so well groomed and I could feel there energy of being very excited encouraged and grounded.

People from Japan, Netherlands, Check republic France, Canada, America came together and Nepali Local women welcomed each of us with really beautiful flowers candle and red tikka to introduce the culture of Nepal.

After Welcome everyone we introduce our self to each other. It was one of the best moments for me. To see Local women introducing herself to the people from other side of world it was powerful.

After this introduction we gave each woman few min’s to speak about International women’s day. Some of the women said really powerful word that made me so proud. The word was like this. I am the mother earth and mother earth has so much compassion to just love everyone. Even though culture and society have failed to give the rights that we born for. I still hold compassion for them to change and believe in equality because I know inequality will never bring harmony peace and love that we all are starving for. And today I am still holding the faith that yes women are climbing Mount Everest, women are doctor women are in Govt sector. These women have proved that we are not less than man. And I know I am not less than man. I am human and I am unique and no one can be like me. So today on this special day I hold the message to not give up and invite people to celebrate international women’s day each year and bring awareness.

Some of the women also said our movement is starting and it will continue until we don’t feel we are equal. Some of our male friends were also in the event and they also spread really positive awareness towards how important it is to have equal rights.

After this entire intro it was my turn to actually give full presentation on International Women’s rights I talked about history of international women’s day.

Which was covering these lines .

In 1909 national woman day in US remembering in 1908 women workers strike asking for rights.

In 1911 first international woman day to ask for voting right,followed by over 1 million in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland.

In 1913 women celebrating International women day and gathering against war .

In 1917 Russian women stop working and asking for food and peace and finally in 1977 UN proclaim 8th March the day for women rights and international peace.

After all this History I talked about women situation in Nepal. Nepal Rank is 108/155,

33% women in government 18% women have been to school and received higher education 37% girls married before 18 years old in Nepal.46% women admitted had been victims of sexual assault. Around 700 000 people are trafficked across national border every year.80% of them are women and girls.

Around 50 Nepali girls and women are at Indian boarder every day to be sex Traffic.

I also talked about best equality countries for women. I share the information About Europe Africa and North America.

Slovenia One of the best country for gender equality.28% women in government 96% of women go to school and receive secondary education.52% women working.22% women in Corporate boards.

I also talked about Native Americans and gender equality.

Yemen is worst country for women 0.7% women in Government 8% women with secondary education 25% women in work

SOMALIA  one of the critical country for women equality. Simply no data except that 98% of women receive genital mutilation.

And after that I gave the data of women struggle all over the world 700 million women and girls in the world get married before the age of 18.Every year 60 million girls are assaulted on their way to school

75% of the world’s 27 million refugees are women. 1 in 3 women in the world experienced physical or sexual violence in her life. Every 3 seconds in the world a young girl is forced to marry.

Globally women represent 22% of parliaments.

Two thirds of the 774 million illiterate people in the world are female. If all women had a primary education, there would be 15% fewer child death. If all women would have a secondary education, Child death would be cut by half. If all girls had a primary education there would be 14% fewer child marriages.

I looked at audience they all looked very overwhelmed to know the fact that rarely people talk about. I saw everyone having a wide eye open to know the fact that we live in 21 century. Where we have talk about high technology and another planet moon and Saturn. Can we stop thinking too far and look our basic human rights we all are born with purpose to offer something beautiful to the world but we get caught into inequality control and oppression. My message to the world is by oppressing one you oppress all.

After all this I have come to conclusion that women are one of the most oppressed minority on earth and my fight for women rights goes on.

This Blog will continue ..

I love lord Shiva message.

Once Parvati was in Shiva’s life, one of her objectives was to bring Shiva closer to the world, as she understood that years of meditation and Yoga would have given Shiva a phenomenal perspective and understanding of what is reality.

She became a devoted student, she would ask Shiva questions about the cosmos, and every answer would spark even more questions. While Shiva would answer these, great truths would be revealed to the world. Truths, that Shiva had discovered during his thousands of years of meditation.

Sitting on Kailasha (Kailasha is the mountain where Shiva lived and practiced Yoga and Meditation), Shiva explained Parvati the secrets of the cosmos, he answered every question that Parvati would have.

While answering these questions, Shiva started coming closer to worldly matters, he grew curious himself as he would study and find answers for Parvati. Now Shiva always had Parvati by his side.

He announced to the world, revealing a truth, “He who escapes from joy and sorrow, instead of living and dealing with them, is a fool and he shall forever fail to see the truth. And he who is only a part of pleasures and pains of life, is also a fool, he shall also never discover the truth. The truth lies in balance, in harmony, between body, mind and soul. It is the balance between individual and society.”

With this message he also announced, “There shall be no worship, or Yagna, without a Man’s wife being right by his side.

While revealing the truth to the world, Shiva makes an important point where he communicates that the truth is not in renouncing the world, it is not in extreme meditation, it is in the balance of things that you find the truth of life. This means that we must always enjoy the sorrows and pleasures of life while balancing them with the meditation and discovery of the self

Reality of Generous Donations To NGOs/INGOs in Nepal.A Local Prospective 1

INGOs, NGOs, Social Organizations, Charities, Aid Agencies, etc., whichever title it carries or is classified under, to donate or not makes a worthwhile extensive evaluation and research.  We hear, see and read about their goodwill and humanity over their websites and the news, and from the supporters.  Behind the presentation, there may be a completely different story to it - the reality.  In the name of Nepal Earthquake and help the victims, these organizations pledge urgently for donations to support their humanitarian aid.  Sounds good to most, it seems.  Yet for those of us who are in Nepal, and have been following up with the earthquake relief efforts, we see and experience a nearly opposite scenario from their presentations of vows to do and mission.  

We personally have known a number of earthquake victims and their quake-hit villages whom have received very little to no aid.  Neither the government nor any relief team has given them any attention.  A foreign friend, Kayu, has spent considerable amount of months in Nepal and she has many experiences to tell on her contacts with NGOs, those of both international and local.  In the earthquake aftermath of April 25th, 2015, she has requested for humanitarian aid to a heavily hit rural village, where all houses are either destroyed or irreparably damaged.  Either no response or rejection was the outcome – cold shoulders, in other words.  The same applied to a local friend from this village, an earthquake victim, whom has appealed to aid agencies for relief support – all either ignored or refused him.  For example, a well-reputed local social organization, who has received publicity and praise for their relief works in the media as well as large sum of donations from its overseas chapters, is far from the reality of their presumed generosity towards quake affected people.  This friend was given a hard time when he contacted this organization.  They demanded him in order to receive any aid from them, he must personally submit authorized legal documents to their office in Kathmandu along with bringing several quake victims and arrange for self transportation of relief supplies (at the victims’ own expense).  These demands are obviously unreasonable and illegitimate, and impossible to be met.  Other than lives, people in this friend’s village, including him, have lost homes and nearly everything to the fatal seconds on April 25th.  This is not the only NGO who made unreasonable demand, so did a number of others – a suspicious intention of ridding the victims to receive direct aid. 

How much truth goes with “ In the name of Nepal Earthquake Relief or Nepal Earthquake Victims, we appeal for donation to help them?”  Supporters neither demand NGOs to provide proof of disaster relief plan or agenda nor to ask for the organization to directly go to them in order to receive the contribution.  Donors entrust funds to NGOs to conduct humanitarian works in reasonable matter.  Then, why do some, in return, act inappropriately towards the earthquake victims in Nepal?

We do not assume all NGOs are alike in the way they progress their mission, but we based what we know on our experiences and understandings of the situations in Nepal.  How much of the generous donations directly go to the aid of earthquake victims in Nepal are questionable?  Perhaps donors are to be reminded there is such thing as overhead and administrative costs involved for majority of the NGOs.  Workers, staffs, the heads and so forth are paid, and the operational and logistics costs don’t go free either. 

These are nothing new, but are points ought to be repeatedly brought up to remind people to take more cautious of whom and what they supporting.  A recent news commentary and its image say it all, and while there may be criticisms to it, yet the contents make plenty of sense in depth.  It brings an interesting thought of how donations should be used more wisely towards helping those in dire needs.

Commentary: INGOs, show us your numbers

http://www.myrepublica.com/opinion/item/22748-commentary-ingos-show-us-your-numbers.html

Imagine a monthly spending of 20million USD solely on paying the salary, accommodation, transportation and other miscellaneous costs for presence of +2000 UN/NGOs consultants and international experts in Nepal during earthquake aftermath?  Not to the mention the fact that, according to local news and the in and out scenes of upscale hotels, these individuals and international aid workers have stayed in 5-star accommodations.     

Reality of generous donations to INGOs/NGOs for Nepal earthquake may be more shocking than what is already known.  

EATHQUAKE UPDATE 3

Nasreen and the women of LWH have started to receive the donations that have come in from all around the world in support of the Aid work they have taken on in Nepal. THANK YOU!

The group has been going from village to village checking on each family and prioritizing their needs. Aside from the cases of physical injury the most needed thing at this point is food and water. Nasreen has directed the donated funds to assessing the size of each family in need and giving them a 10 day food aid package. In addition to food she has also purchased some sleeping mats and some other comforts to ease outdoor living. As of now most people are living in tents and cooking meals together she said and that some volunteers from LWH have been taking people to the hospital for care also. 

The Nepali government has taken it upon them selves to seize any deposits for Aid directly from the bank accounts of the people under the guise that all funds are to be directed to a government managing system and distributed how they see fit. Considering Nepals longstanding history with government corruption it is hard to believe that these seized funds will be appropriately distributed. Offerings and LWH have set up a system that circumvents the ability of any donations being seized by the government and insures the accountability for these donations reaching the people directly affected. For any questions about this system please feel free to contact me directly. 

Out of the stories that have been coming in Nasreen has consistently reinforced her perception of the gift she has been given with this experience. She is continually in gratitude for the help and support she has been able to direct to people in need, while also allowing LWH to grow its reputation in the village as a business that supports human rights. She told me that one of her workers had broken her back in the earthquake and is paralyzed, they had also found out she is pregnant and are eagerly trying to help her. The village they visited yesterday saw 9 deaths from the quake, and they were very honest with their needs, never asking for more than what can get them by for a short time.

The LWH shop in Poknajol outside of Thamel and Nasreens apartment upstairs have been declared condemned and unsafe. They are seeking a second opinion at this time but from the photos coming in it seems this may be the end to that shop. They are waiting for the 2nd evaluation and I will update as soon as I hear. Currently they have moved everything from the shop and apartment out to the building in Goldhunga so they can continue focusing on the aid work they are doing.


Anyone can donate directly to the LWH website (www.lwhnepal.com) in confidence that not only will these donations go directly to ones in need, but also these funds will not be seized by the Nepali government.

Thank you again for all your continued support 

.R

ow.mgmt@gmail.com

EARTHQUAKE UPDATE 2

Ive been able to get thru to Nasreen a few times since I posted last. She has focused her time on making sure the women of LWH are taken care of. I was happy to hear that Parbati and her daughter Osika have been accounted for now along with most of the other women of LWH. I was heart broken to hear that most all of them are homeless now, some have serious injury’s (broken arm, broken back) and some have lost loved ones. 

The group from LWH had spent the first few days after the quake getting out to Goldhunga and getting people safe and settled at the LWH building. They all worked on cleaning up the collapsed divider wall and also tried to cope mentally with what has happened to them all the while with continuing after shocks happening. As of last night Nasreen told me they are still experiencing disturbing after shocks from the quake that really puts everyone on edge.

She spoke of how traumatizing this event is to everyone, and how much devastation has occurred, it has just been impossible to take in. She has also spoke of the beauty that can come out of such a tragedy in the forms of many things. She told me that there are huge groups of 10 or more families getting together to cook meals and share the food they have, and also share human connection. Without the use of power or wifi everyone has really relied on word of mouth and sharing with each other the good and bad news. The lines that divide the caste system in Nepal and also between rich and poor are starting to disappear as everyone sees they are all destitute and need to rely on one another. I hear the warmth in her voice when she she speaks of these things but I also hear the cold distant feeling she has when talking about how overwhelming the situation is and how dire the need for aid has become.

For awhile I think the LWH group was scared and trying to stay still in GD to take care of their family and friends. Now I can tell as they have slowly ventured out to talk with others as they have been emotionally affected and moved to help where they can. We spoke about how we could create a system of direct support for the people in need of the village. Currently Nasreen and the women of LWH have taken on the job of aid out reach, they are using the new LWH building in GD as a home base. They are venturing out in groups going home to home to help each person they see. They have been taking down their personal information, photographs and contact info. The LWH site is now set up to receive donations, these donations go straight to supporting LWH’s aid work on the ground in Nepal. We were going to try and post profiles of each family online with an amount needed, but reception is very spotty and Nasreen feels she cant take time to upload the info because she is needed in every moment. She said that all the information is being recorded and she will upload when she can and it will be posted on the LWH blog. There seems to be no time to get the needs of each family right now because it is obvious that food and water are the only needs to be focused on at this point.

If you know Nasreen and LWH, you can support the type of human rights work their hearts are tied to, and this is the time to do it. In a tragedy like this LWH can be really affective at bringing direct relief and support to people that are currently not getting this. Being able to see photos and video online is nothing to the experience of being there and this is the best way you can put your energy with people on the front lines and connect with other human beings in need.

I have attached the photos she has been able to send

Thank you all so much for the energy everyone is directing to Nepal, Nasreen and LWH feels every bit of your support and is doing the best at acting as a channel for this energy.

more updates again soon

Earthquake UPDATE 1

On Saturday evening I was talking with Nasreen on the phone about a young Muslim girl who had come to her for help, she told me that the girl is from a village outside of Kathmandu and had fallen in love with a Hindu boy from the village. This is something that is not accepted in her family so they brought her to Kathamndu to separate her from him and hopefully stamp out their connection. This girl approached Nasreen for help because the boy who had never come to the city before in his life sent her a message saying he is coming to the city to find her, she needed a safe place to meet with him and requested her help. Nasreen was telling me just how much she felt for this girl because like her she is from a very strict Muslim village and also faced extreme hardship when she decided to refuse her forced marriage and shun her family by doing so. She said the young boy had called her cell phone that morning in a panic because he had arrived in the city and had no idea where he was or how to get around. It was at this moment in our conversation Nasreen stopped and said out loud “what is this?”, then I heard screaming followed by loud sounds of glass breaking, thumping, crunching and the line went dead………

The next 30 mins of my life crawled by as I tried to reach her with no avail and understand what had happened. Slowly the reports started coming in online about the earthquake and I plummeted into sadness and thoughts for Nasreen and all of my family and friends in Nepal. When River and I were in Nepal in January he had brought up the conversation about “what if” an earthquake hit Kathmandu? In our travels we are accustomed to working in dwellings made from simple brick, or old crooked buildings, janky make shift structures and not really thinking twice about an exit plan incase of an earthquake. We talked about the likelihood of mass devastation if indeed Nepal was hit by a large quake and pondered the question as to how the country could recover with limited resources and a weak public works department. We left that conversation in Nepal in the winter, it is now spring and these questions have been answered.

I was finally able to get Nasreen on the phone 30 mins later. She sounded dazed and nervous, she happened to be in a big open market with a bunch of the LWH women that day and although buildings came down near them they were all able to escape injury. She said the force of the quake was so strong it through her down sending the phone we were on flying out of her hands, it was only later that a man picked up the phone and returned it to her was she able to receive my call. 

She was immediately thinking about her shop, the LWH building, and all her family and friends that live at and use the facilities everyday. Had the building collapsed, was anyone inside? As I talked with her 4 more after shocks hit and I could hear screams of fear in the background. Nasreen and the group she was with chose to wait it out in the open market for hours as the after shocks kept coming. It was later they joined a group on the lawn of the vice president of Nepal to share in some warmth for the night and protection from the crumbling structures everywhere. That night the rain came and saturated everything and everyone, when I talked with her in the morning I could her the toll the night had taken on her, the anxiety produced by the continual after shocks, the crying from people around her, she was overwhelmed with it all and coming down from shock.

As I read more and more about the quake in the press I started to see familiar places I new very well in complete and utter destruction, the district of Thamel has been hit very hard. I also read about a conference that was held in Nepal just a week prior with “50 earthquake and social scientists from around the world” who had come together in discussion as to how to better prepare for a quake like this. Unfortunately to little to late for the people of Nepal. 

When I got thru to Nasreen next she had gone to the shop and surveyed the damage, LWH shop in Poknajol was still standing but has suffered from some large cracks in the building, she was heart broken to see some buildings around her had collapsed and killed some of her neighbors. After inspecting the situation the group decided to move themselves out side of the city to the LWH building project in Goldhunga village. It is there where they have decided to stay as they have fresh water from and open spring, an electricity inverter that was charged, some food supplies and safety in the open area away from crumbling buildings continually hit by aftershocks. 

When I spoke with Nasreen this morning she had spent the day with her group going around the village of Goldhunga giving aid to people and documenting what they needed. I could tell in her somber tone that the sadness of it all had really started to sink in and she was feeling for all the people suffering. She did say that overall the people of Nepal are all just trying to help each other, in a country that survives each day hand to mouth there is no time for anything other than just picking up and moving on moment to moment. 

To everyone that has contributed to the ongoing building campaign in any way for LWH through Offerings or any of the other links, THANK YOU! The building is now serving as a hub for the village to share resources and assess the damage and aid needed in the surounding areas.

I will be writing more about this as the days go on, I can say that some of the women are still not accounted for at LWH, one of who is Parbati and her daughter Osika. These 2 are particualry close to our hearts and we hope they are safe and secure and just not able to get thru on the cell networks.

I will be updating again in the next few days as things progress.

 

 

 

Dreams turns into live..

Today is a major turning point in my life.  We are multifold steps closer to achieving the LWH dream!  Witnesses include the women of LWH, and friends, whom gathered at the opening of LWH house located in outskirt village of Kathmandu.  It was a beautiful sunny day, a wonderful timing for the opening. 

Two rooms are set to go in the new LWH; the rest remains in progress.  Full completion is targeted for within the next year.  Patience pays off, and the perfect example sets instant before our eyes!  We decorated our first ready to use room, by having the sewing machines in place and tied with balloons to signify their rebirths.  The women made the first crafts at this new LWH, on its open deck under the gentle sun.  This open deck will be topped with upper floor, to increase the additional working space and storage for LWH.  I target to provide opportunities to more ladies for their skill practice.  The thought of it excites me lots!     

LWH, at last, has its independence – a house of its own, and detached from rental in the city.  Solely the shop remains in city, while the factory and cutting room have been relocated to the new LWH.  As we set up the factory and cutting room, many recollections surfed in my mind.  I recalled the inspirations behind establishing LWH, and the struggles on this long path.  The journey appeared impossible initially, yet I insisted on to be true to myself, and the world responded positively in most cases.  Every step is a lesson, and I was prepared to take challenges.  I am well aware without it, life is motivated barely an inch ahead.    In times of desperate needs, somehow, somewhere and someone gave me a hand.  The outcome was, unexpectedly, as of a leap ten steps forward in touching the goal.  Generous supports, encouragement, love and even the simplicity in kindness, pump and guide me and LWH forward with minimum tripping.  I am constantly amazed by this beauty resulted from persistence on completing what seemingly was zero solution in the beginning.  Our shop and factory were repeatedly endangered of shutting down due to minimal understanding from the landlord on the intention behind LWH, and threat of raise in rental cost kept us on nerve line.  Yet from today on, we no longer need to face this adversity, LWH has its own home to sustain its creativity and crafting.  We look forward to presenting more to customers and to inspire individuals!

While some recollections of the past still bite emotionally, and I feel sadden by the problematic gender issues prevail in my society, I pray that the existence of LWH inspires individuals to contemplate and execute what is honorable and fair.  I am neither a feminist fighter nor aggressor, but a female standing up for fundamental gender rights, and providing work and skill opportunities to disadvantaged women.  Though receiving academic education has become more common than generation before in this country, yet the aspect of social education requires much design and upgrade.  LWH stands, too, for this mission, to educate women to acquire practical skills and transform into a method of sustainable living.

I recalled prior to entering teen years, I first presented myself to Kathmandu.  It was a cultural shock; it took me two months before I could push myself to stare out the window without feeling awkward.  Due to the social atmosphere of which I was accustomed to from my home village, the public scene of young and old making frequent appearance was unimaginable.  This collapsed when I saw Kathmandu, and I realized females have just much right to be integrated into the real world.  With this image, it ignited me to have a dream and join the world outside of village. Today, this dream is many partially fulfilled but remains ongoing.  The new LWH signifies not merely a new era, a rebirth, and independence but a bright future with many dreams aim to turn from hopes to plans, and to live action and living.

In live and written words, our gratitude to everyone for their support never comes to end.  Repeatedly I said to myself and to our women that our living dream is possible because of the global friendship and generosity.  We deeply appreciate and cherish this heavenly present!  As we looked at the new LWH, it is one of the wonders whom friends and the world have given us. 

We invite you to come visit our new home, and share the excitement!                  

First time in the sky.

Lots of mixed awkward feelings yet interesting encounters engaged with first time in the sky, and what followed. 

I hear and see airplanes fly over Kathmandu daily.  To me, they are closer to angel-like because they have wings, and I do not, obviously.  Thanks to a sponsored trip from Offering based in the US, I received the chance to be on plane for the first time, to travel overseas for the first time, to see the ocean for the first time, and many more first time witnessing and experience. 

It all began with first time in the sky, from Nepal’s Tribhuvan International Airport and proceeded to destination, Bali Island of Indonesia.  I was already over excited and nervous even prior to boarding the cab for airport.  That was, when I first received the electronic air ticket from Offering ; I was going to fly and travel, at last!  While normally, I am not a fan of science, however, the moment I stepped into the airplane and the second it soared into the sky, I was amused.  Science is incredible, it invented unfavorable destruction towards certain nature yet it also shaped the conveniences of sky travel.  I must admit I began to enjoy the sweets created by science!  As the plane soared high, I was in the sky, and ‘wow’, I repeated in the mind.  Not certain the right words to express this amazing feeling, and surprisingly, I managed to sleep with the excitement remained in my dreaming.

I wish I had the entire LWH team with me on this overseas trip, and someday, within my capability, I aim to make it happen.  I desire for my ladies to receive the opportunity to learn via experiencing the exciting unknowns and differences at overseas.  It is not about leveling myself or them to have the travel leisure, but learning to be humble and tolerant towards those and the society whom much differed from us.  That, in fact, was a test while I was in Bali. 

In my culture, there is very little chance to witness individuals presenting themselves with less modest dressing.  But in Bali, being one of the top beach vacation spots on the globe, such sight is inevitable.  It is an island, after all, and there are beaches, nothing strange about individuals in comfort with their swimsuits and even bikinis on.  If I was to dress like how I usually do in Nepal, even if I do not suffer from weird stares, the heated temperature would have knocked me down regardless!  Initially, I was somewhat emotionally judgmental aimed at cultural shock.  I, then, realized, shamed on me for thinking problematic – why mind the differences and why not be tolerant.  To dress or not to dress is an individual right and freedom.   I reminded myself that I love to travel because I want to see how the world operates, and differences to be witnessed are expected! 

We accumulate humbleness as we see and encounter further, and this well applied when I saw the grand sea before me at Bali.  It was my first time to eye capture the vast amount of water horizontally and vertically, and the ships of small and big.  Ocean is just as grand as the Himalayas back at home, I mumbled!  I see the grand snow-capped mountain range from distant in Kathmandu, and I am aware if I am to approach them closer, I would not be qualified to even be elf when stand with them side by side.  It is a cliché to say so humans are tiny before the nature, yet modesty towards it appeared to be skipped in modern days.  Again, it came to my mind that we need to protect our nature more than the attempt to control me.  While I enjoyed the wonder and magnificent view of the sea, concurrently, it was teaching me to be humble.  I am not to contribute to destruction of the beautiful shore and sea, and this applies to the nature in my country, too.  Needless to say, I am against litter, and nature damaging behavior.   Embarrassingly to say, these ill social behaviors have yet to become slim in Nepal.

Many first times on this trip, it was an amazing outdoor classroom.  I missed the trip the moment I landed in Tribhuvan International Airport.  On the other hand, the moment I arrived at Bali, homesickness attacked me.  I missed my friends, and tears spread on my face!  Another first time from this trip was returning alone on flight returns to Nepal, I had never traveled on the road on my own, not even in my own country.  Although I was sad to bid farewell to friends at Bali, for the gathering was amazingly great, I managed to fly alone without fear, and at the end, I was proud I achieved it.  It was hilarious, and warm-hearted, during flights and transit in Kuala Lumpur International Airport, respectively.   I thought I had locked myself in the washroom while relieving myself from nature’s call on the plane.  “Oh my goodness!”, I panicked, and madly, knocked, pressed and twisted any buttons and handles to get myself out.  Yes, I got released without anyone to come to my rescue, and I laughed out loud for this ridicule I self placed.  My heart was warmed in puzzling when a stranger suddenly offered to pay my bill for the gifts I bought for friends at Kuala Lumpur Airport.  It was too good to be true but it occurred.

First time in the sky enlighten me plentifully, and strengthened my love to travel more in the future.  With the best company, Roger, River, Ben and Lindsay, anyone could have, came with abundant laughter anyone to light my first times, I thank, again, to Offering Company for the treat.  The first time overseas has served as the ultimate outdoor classroom, and I have come to appreciate science and nature more.  A toast to the many first times within this first time!                                

One Small Fish

I sadly have to share that the insults and complete lack of faith in our work as women continues . I had a negative encounter once more that brought me to tears . No matter how many times it happens it never gets easier. Why do people exist out there that seek to being others down ? In this recent instance it was - as is often the case - assumed my success is due to my  'going to the guesthouse' , implying I am prostituting myself . And yes men in Nepal feel entitled and arrogant enough to express this outrageous and mysogynistic claim . 'How did you get the women?' They ask. 'Who handed you the money ?' How dare they . Even though these comments make me want to work harder for our cause , I can't help but feel rage that they even exist . 

Have they no idea what I have done to get here? No. Still it is always assumed I did nothing . I am a leech, a thieft , a prostitute. Yet a man works in the black market , takes money from his rich corrupt uncle , and he is still a respectable man just doing what he must to survive and succeed . The double standards are still so frustratingly strong . 

Another way in which We at LWH continue to live under the power men hold over us is how the threats continue to grow as we move up the ladder and gain notoriety.

I am given larger offers, yes, but at grossly undervalued prices because I am a woman and it is assumed the person offering is doing me a favour. I am always commanded . But I refuse to devalue my products no matter how Amazing the offer. I am tired at these attempts at being squashed. I am feeling always at risk of being Sold out or Bought out as people see profit making potential in our growth and notoriety. Tourism , especially charity and voluntourism are huge industry in Nepal. And peoples mouths begin to water when they see that we've been written about in Forbes . I want to celebrate Our climb up the ladder but still I feel like a slave . Every decision I take very seriously, and I understand that the desire for others investment in our work could easily eliminate us. Instead I continue to consult the women on all major decisions as our continued independence is our central priority . Further , I want our growth to benefit local people not international business men and entrepreneurs.  

What is even more disturbing is that even my handling of various offers puts me at risk, as I still live in a society where women do not dare act firmly in roles of authority. Must I always censor every decision and careful action? 

There are so many people with so much wealth, It pains me to be low balled and undercut.

I do not want to sell out and start producing low quality for the sake of quantity . It is so important that we do good solid work in material and in the substance behind the physical product . I do not want to sell out and start producing low quality for the sake of late quantity. I refuse to do mass profit making orders .Why do people push for that one dollar from me when they sit a top a mountain of them ? Do they want poverty to continue ? 

 

It also pains me that people could even dream of using our cause for profit . Once more as we climb the risk of falling increases . Are we really a threat ? Will I ever be without fear of losing  everything we have built ?  Will I ever be able to just put energy into our project rather than struggling with these various energy draining affronts ? I am being pulled away from these negative and scary encounters when there is so much more I need to do here . The work and responsibility is perpetually piling up. Yet We are constantly challenged by the conflicts rife against all women in Nepal . 

I can't help but worry about the  potential for harm to our project as people are afraid of what we symblize for women and society . How can I continue to handle such great power as such a small fish ? As I continue to hold sting and true in our ideals I am still afraid . I have no connections , no rich uncle , no brother in government , nothing to back us in case We fall . 

I am tired of having to think the worst in others . Many people make this world dark . I came from huge hardship . My struggle has been huge as has all of ours . No one in my family or village is educated ... How to hold the strength to challenge the wales and sharks in this great sea as just one small fish ?

House of cards

We are Building forward , and celebrating the fact that money previously tied up in  bank bureaucracy is now available . It is amazing though how quickly funds are allocated and evaporated . With the money we bought the required raw materials for our foundation but still we have not been able to pay the builder in full for his work up to date .

This hurts my heart, as I understand deeply how it is to be a card sitting delicately within a stack of cards metres high. Our interconnected group of women at LWH is the most delicate structure - with one compromised we fall in our entirety . The builder is in the same position : If he is not paid he cannot pay his labourers who depend in turn on his cheques to feed children and grandparents. The structure can so easily fall.

Thankfully he is an understanding man , and he hears me out as I explain how I need to make more sales to meet the payments . Yet even he feels the need to remind me that building a house is not a game , and that he is in turn responsible for 6 people ... It pains me to think that my daunting and fragile house of cards is even larger than imagine ....

Thankfully the Foundation is almost done, and we need only 3 to 4 thousand dollars more to finish it before winter settles in completely . Yet the juggle of paying my women as they so rightfully deserve continues . It is  so important that they do not ever suffer for the ups and downs involved in the expansion of our project . Yet things are so tight , every transaction a shuffle , every deadline looming . Each moment I cannot help but carry the fear that one blink, one instant , one shutter, will take our house , our livelihood , and our dreams away. 

combine your christmas present with a good cause.

Hello hello to everyone around the world!

We are in urgent need of some donations, and we have created Christmas parcels of different sizes - see attachments for the donation give away's. Please read the following to get a better idea, and please forward it to your friends!

Local women’s handicrafts (LWH) is a Fair Trade women’s sewing collective in Nepal, dedicated to the radical advancement, support and education of women’s rights in Nepali society.

We currently employ 22 disadvantaged women who fled their homes, are widowed, or left by their husbands. We also emphasize on employing young women who came to Kathmandu to study but lack the necessary finances – being aware that it is these educated women who are going to change the future.

Almost every week a women comes to us begging for a job, but we have to turn them away. 

We do not want to turn a single woman away who is in genuine and urgent need of help, money, independence, and a livelihood. 

In June 2014 we started to build an extended working and living space in a quiet village area 20mins out of Kathmandu. Our aim is to provide education and job opportunities for 1000 women and more. The total costs for this building is approximately $65000. A strong determination to empower Nepal’s women, and the support from our friends from all over the world are slowly making this possible – but we need YOUR help as well. 

We have created Christmas parcels, each containing a variety of handmade items from our local women’s group. We are offering different sized parcels for a donation of $30 (USD), $50 or $100. (including shipping costs). We do have a PayPal account. 


The items we will mail to you will be perfect little Christmas presents for your loved ones – why not this year combine thinking of your loved ones with thinking of those in the world who are less lucky than us? So much of what we gift today has been created through pain and disenfranchisement of the underprivileged: let this year be the year that we give items created by and for the reproduction and reclaiming of LOVE.

Have a look at the different parcels – colours and design may vary, but please tell us your favourite colours!

We look forward to hearing from you:) 

Katu Lama and the local women

Email: Localwomenshandicrafts@gmail.com 

Homepage: www.lwhnepal.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LOCALWOMENSHANDICRAFTS

Please forward this message to your friends and family (but not those you want to surprise with little LWH-gifts for christmas:) )

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To marry or not to marry .The dubious social sin

 Do I owe social responsibility for refusing forced marriage? 

 

Is it a social sin to decide my life course ? 

 

By firmly saying no to socio-cultural expectation of marriage by an unofficially stated age, I am at risk of constant sexual annoyance, verbal attack and ridicule from those who labeled me as unorthodox and a disgrace.  The risk, in fact, ought to be nonexistent, yet social pressure is a persistent, hungry monster. Am I not entitled to decide for myself the path upon which I embark? Does a life path not include marriage? Surely, in the 21st century, this by no means is a common norm, freedom and right.  This understanding though, sadly, fails to be respected by many who surround me – those from my village, the neighbors and even unknown locals.  Girls, ladies, women, regardless what the title is, have their age sitting stamped upon their forehead, and if still single, they become greater targets for harassment and assault. 

 

Repeated whys twirl in my mind:  must I be married to be socially accepted and a contributing responsible member of society ? I bear no grudge against marriage, and I champion the free will to fall in love, and to marry or not to marry.  Yet for marriage to be socially and culturally forced, it lacks legitimacy as an individual right.  Who wouldn’t agree he or she is allergic to such a shackle ?  I know I am not alone on this.   

 

I take charge of my life, and I am more than willing to bear the outcome of choices I enlisted in. I, however, will not succumb to socio-cultural expectations and outdated orthodox values, of which both fundamentally disregard respect and equality for women.  The pressure from conventional environment and family, the sexual harassment as the emotional tortures are unbearable.  As a result, many girls give in – for marriage appears to be the only solution to wipe away the infinite nightmares.  What frequently follows forced marriages are the devastation and resentment sinking the happily ever after.  The consequences, in numerous accounts, are tragic, and this is not unheard of from the press.  News recently reported an atrocity committed by a husband and his family, abusing and burning the wife for not meeting their defined and demanded dowry.  Female victims suffered, and not those who had placed the women in the furnace.  Questioning ‘why’ is a response to the circulating news and opinion.  For most of us, there is an obvious answer, yet the problematic underlying reality and crises have lasted for ages in this country and remain ominous, just beneath the surface, waiting to be scratched .  The solution lies in wakening our ethics and morals.   

 

Feminine rights and respect are overlooked, and unfortunately, this is a tough battle to fire first shot.  The days when females were equivalent to object and sale product, supposedly, are farewell for good, at least legally and by overt contemporary standards. Sadly, in reality, prejudice and ill-treatment remain at large in today’s Nepal, and evidently, too, in daily life.  Many girls are denied the opportunity for proper education and the right to be integrated as productive, contributing, and independent members of society.  There are regular instances of graffiti marking verbal indecencies and abuse on the signboard of our LWH shop. We receive sickening text messages from unidentified callers popping repeatedly on personal mobile devices, and stares of hatred from neighbors and relatives, just to name a few.  These do not solely victimize me.  Similar circumstances are commonly bestowed upon other girls of my age group.  These matters affect us all, young and grown-ups. Among my ladies in LWH, some are into their mid-age, whom have suffered marriage violence.  I recalled the days when even in an academic setting, harassment struck ; while in class, a male teacher out of the blue patted me from behind with a smirk.  Imagine this , coming from an adult mentor, to whom you look for guidance. A foreign friend of mine, too, experienced public shame during a visit in Nepal; even female solo travelers may be subject to gender offense. 

 

My patience and my held breath are at its limit.  Hence, I honestly voice my intolerance towards these offensive and inhumane behaviors, and the disrespect and inmoral social abuse afflicted towards women simply because they are women.  Should anyone suffer from the physical form into which they were born ? I pray for these misguided individuals to quest appropriate and meaningful roles and tasks to engage in this life, rather than to exhibit ill-considered, inappropriate and childish acts that only result in cementing artificial and counterproductive barriers. 

 

I am, undeniably, dubious on the evolution of the human consciousness, in particular the socio-cultural mentality in the society I have called home.  While modern infrastructures and equipments have advanced at a blinding pace in Nepal (Kathmandu itself has doubled in size in the last 10 years alone ) the respects and rights biologically owed to the feminine spirit and form have been imported at the very bare minimum.  Many individuals, young and old, own high-tech devices such as mobile phones, computers and iPads. If we are now so familiar and comfortable with technology , how about building and keeping a database of critical thinking and principles?  It is not uncommon for humans to be lured to posses bigger, better and greater tools of technology. We want increased and sophisticated features or functions, whether it be a mobile , a motorbike or a dwelling.  Undoubtedly, I agree with there is necessity for the existence of some tools to assist individuals to accomplish tasks and sustain a living – it’s no sin.  The public, in general, believes these modern possessions will somehow improve and bring further conveniences to daily survival.  But why not transfer this legitimate desire for improved and advanced lifestyle to what lies at the heart of our lives - the moral standard through which we advance all actions ? Oddly, we invest very little in advancing our beliefs, no matter how much we love our friends, lovers and family - as a society we have stalled in our progress towards a holistically loving contemporary world. 

It is interesting that at increasing intervals our equipments and vehicles are replaced for better ones so to keep up with the smart living, trends, and the rapid change in technology.  These are ordinary phenomena across the globe, and again, a cliché.  I, however, am skeptical in regards to the genuine necessity of this constant change to new and upgraded modern devices.  Though the tools are in fine service and functional, why outcast the still usable and durable for new just for the sake of a fresh flash or a new sound ? Hasn’t it hit the societal mind that our group mentality and values are urging, crying for renovation , far greater than  the need to replace our already new machines and vehicles? 

 

Possessing healthy souls and minds are vital - to my country, my society and my home village, it certainly is and has a desperate need.  The materialistic well-being solves little of the moral and ethical problem the creeps along side us . Needless to say, it solves none for girls, ladies and women at an disadvantage position.  My signature saying states, what to do?  I aim to respond constructively, with the sharp observations , pressing questions and clear solutions that these problems demand. If I believe in anything it is the creativity and power of each individual. Together we can move mountains . 

 

I Pray, pray and I pray for awakenings in my home village, society and those surrounding me. I wish for us all to uncover the true dignity, beauty and shine lying beneath the muck. Life as a free human, a respected individual for both genders is our natural born state, and none should be disqualified.   I am on this movement this path and I will remain : despite my unfavourability and my outcast state in eyes of many. Against all odds I persist. Like igniting a non-violent revolution, the act requires perseverance and possibly faces mental impeachment.  Admittedly, difficulties and threats had pushed me on verge of surrender, but thanks to supportive friends, strength drives me farther to sustain LWH and fortify my values along carefully chosen principles.  Forced marriage, socio-cultural pressure, living under arbitrary disadvantages and sexual assault, namely, are issues I have battled for years.  I endured, neither because I have great tolerance nor courage in the face of risk. Rather it is the common sense which someone must stand and live up to address and challenge of reality, thereby, pushing me to the front lines.  Any change for the better initiates with voicing aloud what is righteous, parallel to clear directed action - as this is what world history has proven effective.  This is the foundation for establishment of LWH. Women should not be subject to unequal treatment against their own will. 

 

To marry or not to marry, it is not a question.  It is a matter free will.

 
What is social sin?  I leave it to you, to determine and evaluate.  If not now , then when ? 

 

 

 

An Aching start‧A Miraculous turnout

It was a painstaking last night.  I struggled with the screen, keyboard and net access.  A seemingly eternity, I sighed, and my prayer for this to be short-lived nightmare failed.  The blow resumed this morning, and needless to say, it was least inviting to start a Saturday.   I find joy in blog updates, and replies to friends across the globe.  Yet the efforts and energy were killed by an aging computer; its operating system has little mercy towards human control.  The days of this computer are numbered, and I am desperate.  LWH is in sweet need for a dear functional communication tool, to bridge the world in words and pictures.  Another crazy day, a mad start, but what to do?  I shrugged, and copiously tapped to update facebook page over mobile device.  A cheer would undoubtedly alleviate the jammed emotion.  All I need is a miracle! 

All I need is a miracle is a lasting classy song by Mike and the Mechanics, beloved by fans of young and old.  The soothing tunes and inspiring lyrics serve to remind - to have faith in miracle, for every individual is a miracle himself /herself.  A miracle is as simple as a smile or hug, which does the magic!  While in process ridding what to do and untangle the emotional knots, the unexpected shined and graced my mind and heart – supports from overseas friends are on its way to us, and followed by series of calls packed with encouragement from the Scandinavia.  With the support, the continuity of pathway construction and pavement to LWH compound site is possible.  Funds are as well secured to purchase cement and cast iron for columns.  A finished paved path relieves the access and transport of building raw materials to the site.  The spontaneous unexpected brings miracles for the day, at constant down rate of apparent bathtub curve, it lifts the situation to increasing slope.   Our aim is to linear keep up, and by all means, prevents from curve into bathtub alike.  While further funds are required for larger quantity of cements and bricks, in addition to labor expense for site and path construction, there remains much to accomplish in coming days and months.  But we are neither despair nor ever ready to surrender.  The miraculous turnout of any day is an alpha, and certainly, not an omega.   Every alpha and what follows strengthens our confidence.  It draws LWH meters closer to our ultimate goal and sustainability.  The process is a test of patience, and race against uncertainty, yet looking at the analogous circumstance of nonexistent path to LWH compound site, for as long as hope and determination stand firm, we part the obstructions to pave the way step by step.  Hence, we eventually create the access.                         

Thank you, dear Lucy, for your generous support  invitation.

Thank you, dear Jessie, for funding the cement purchase. 

Thank you, dear Dan, for your beautiful words of support.  Your calls showered wonders on my afternoon!  And made me shocked on the  spot your ticket booking and coming to see us, i felt so happy for your freedom, your choice is in your  fist/hand.

In the midst of infinite what to do, all your thoughtfulness spark the miracles.  I began today with motion aches and hard wrestles with the aging high-tech device.  Yet halfway into the day, grace came, a miraculous turnout that concluded this Saturday evenings with smiles and profound touches.  I am not alone, and I know I will not be alone in achieving the missions. 

With love and hugs to you all, I close the day with look forward to a good tomorrow.      

 

Creating the Space for Generosity

Sometimes you have to make room for generosity. Being closed off and full of clutter keeps the light from shining in. This is my realization today.

I fundamentally believe in the human good : when we see genuine need , our instinct is to help. Sadly, I think this instinct is often dulled by modern human existence . We are overwhelmed with human need - and numb ourselves in response. We are also overwhelmed with inauthenticity, trained to assume the worst in people for fear of being scammed. And scams there sure are - such as the gang that enlists women to beg for milk with their hungry child in arms (a genuine scam here in Kathmandu ). To top is off, most human interactions are void of real human connection these days. They are empty transactions , motivated by money and only money. But what happens when we open up space for sharing our truth for the sake of truth , without expectation of reward?  

With everything on my mind , the funding struggles and my many responsibilities, I've at times lacked the energy to share my story ... Rather than sharing like an open book as I am usually inclined to do, I've remained silenced with exhaustion . But I realize that having the courage and optimism to share truths with people in the shop has proven immensely valuable. Rather than just letting people just pass by, in and out, speaking up has turned strangers into life long friends, and browsers into enduring volunteers.

It's not always easy being open to sharing deep, personal and sometimes painful truths about our world. It can be taxing, intimidating and overwhelming. Putting your life out there can be scary . But I refuse to assume that people don't want to hear it or that it's burdensome or that it's pointless. 

Through sharing the truth behind our work and what we do, we've given people the opportunity to help in any way they can, if they feel so compelled .  We challenge the emptiness of a closed society with openness and fearless expression. We lift the spirit of generosity out from the muck. In doing so , we take a risk , and maybe, just maybe, a seed will grow.

Importantly, we can't expect a return. If we expect a reward, the interaction looses it's substance. Through my experience, people automatically tune in to authenticity.  And naturally, true human connection flowers from it.  

When a connection is made,  the generosity flowers into many forms. It may be a referral to an micro loan website, the purchase of a hand bag, sending a friend to the shop, or sharing an energizing smile of encouragement. All are immense, life affirming, and valuable. 

As I reflect on this, it was through one simple honest gesture that I got to know my teacher  , to whom I owe my life. I reached out, and he reached back. This experience is what affirmed the desire to share my Truth in the first place. It's been clear to me since that day that remaining silent, though tempting, is not pro active no matter how lonely and lost I may feel .  Instead , I dive in. I speak out. And more often than not, the truth really does set me free.

Perhaps not coincidentally,   a German man came into the shop today with a potential offer for purchasing large orders of our goods for resale . Much hope ! Given that one of our large pending payments still hasn't gone through the bank , this glimmer of hope is truly like a flood of light. I've also just received word from the building site manager that ground water is rising into the excavated holes we've created for our foundation -  meaning we have to act fast. Even if we don't have funding for the whole project , we must move forward with the foundation as soon as possible or the water will create a host of more, expensive issues . While I know better than to assume this new connection will develop any further, I am reminded that every encounter, every moment , is an opportunity to lift, light, and shine on. Namaste. 

Banking in Nepal

With our small non-profit operation here in Nepal, every step is a juggle .

In Kathmandu, you can't take out a large loan unless you own property, land or come from a wealthy family with political ties. For this reason, the rich get richer and poor stay the same. We as the underprivileged carry all the restrictions and fair little chance to move forward.

As I play the balancing act of managing the store, paying the builders, and working towards our LWH home, I am staying a float but progress is very slow.

As I finally receive and deposit a long awaited cheque from a large order payment, I am reminded of the challenges we face in Nepal. Though the two Nepali banks involved in this transfer are on the same street, the deposit has now taken 4 business days. For the average person, this is no big deal. But for us at LWH, every rupee counts. If the banks only knew how much we needed this money and how sensitive the time as for us. The women need their salaries, as today was the first of the business calendar. They too are just squeezing by with their payments. But every month is a struggle.  I can't bear to delay payment for my women as they work so hard and deserve it. They should not suffer as we seek to grow our project, no matter how important our new LWH building is for our future. I will happily go without , as I am used to only buying a few small groceries a day with whatever I can spare. Every rupee always seems to be tied up. But I cannot bear to let the women suffer too.

I am facing the reality that I may have to take on another micro loan. While this seems in some ways that I am failing, I have to remember that for most small businesses or property owners in the world seeking to develop and build on their land, it is relatively easy to get a loan. We are the underprivileged class of the underprivileged sex. The struggle is hard but I have to accept that I must ask for help.

 

We Need your Help

As we continue on our road to transforming the lives of Nepalese women we are once more coming to terms with funding challenges. As many of you know, I have never been an advocate of straight donations. I would much prefer the trading of skills, knowledge, or direct assistance based on specific needs so people know exactly what they are contributing to.  

As we have very large amounts of beautiful stock I would like to propose that those wishing to help us contribute, help us by sending a sum of money - $100 or $200 or whatever you can afford, and I will send them a beautiful selection of our unique hand made pieces. As Christmas is approaching the time is ripe for organizing gifts, and what better gift than one that gives twice !  

I have always detested asking for hand outs , as I believe that it is hard work that moves us forward. But as we move closer to our dream I realize that some assistance is necessary. Please , consider us as you prepare gifts for the holiday season , and thank you for your support. 

Reflecting on Goodbye

Today I said goodbye one more to my dear friends Carol and Ron. Saying goodbye leaves me filled with mixed emotions. It reminds me of the many experience of abandonment I have had in my life. A a young girl, I was incredibly sick. One time I was so ill and weak the doctor came to the village. He gave me injections which thankfully helped my condition. I remember him telling me "if you were a boy, you would be dead. But because you are a girl, you will wait for your dowry."

Later after fleeing to Kathmandu, I was alone and lost once more, wandering the streets in fear of being sent back to my village to marry just as all the young girls did. It was then that my American teacher approached me, I remember I was afraid of his dog. He told me not to fear this dog. I knew he must be a good person. In desperation I asked, "Please Uncle, please help me." In hearing these words of endearment and seeing the genuine fear in my eyes, he took me in and taught me everything I know.

As I faced my forced marriage, I was also in a position of abandonment. I was alone, forced to run away and isolated from those I loved. I risked losing everything I had worked so hard to create in Kathmandu.

As I write this today, I have come so far. I have a shop, a factory, 20 women who work with me, a family that has forgiven me, and friends across the globe. Yet, on some level it could so easily escape me. A few missed rents, an accident at the shop, or lost funding and it could all disappear. Yet I know in my heart that with every void, with every challenge, with every moment of desperation, something new will present itself. There will be more challenges for sure. But the gifts in my life have always arrived at just the right moment, like light shining through the darkness. All I can do is continue to do what is right, honest, and true to my heart.

As for my two dear friends, I know they wish to return to Nepal. They feel connected to this place, as they know they are loved. In some ways they are never really gone - they will always be with me through what they have helped me create and what they have taught me. I am deeply inspired by how many lives they have transformed in such a short period of time. An entire new school in just a few short weeks.  Such selfless service, I am in awe. What is more, they are simply two individuals helping other individuals. They are not part of an NGO or Organization, and as such they are free to meet true and immediate needs without having to tick black boxes and meet mandates.

From my mother and father, I never received true and unconditional love. This is simply not how the village society works. The main concern is meeting the demands of society by keeping the daughter young and innocent and pure for her dowry and marriage. The purpose of children is not to simply love and let them be free. But from Carol and Ron I have the love of parents. Thank you from deep in my heart for setting me free.

 

On Honesty...

Today a Nepali man came to the store offering to buy 1,000 scarves. He wanted to place a 'Made in Nepal' label on them to sell to another buyer as 'locally handcrafted.'  I explained that this particular item in our shop was not made here, but made in China. Given our desperate need of funds, I could easily be swayed by this offer. But there is so much injustice and lying involved in this: the poor workers in China are being dishonoured, the people in Nepal making truly local pieces are being dishonoured, and even the tourists trying to buy local are being dishonoured, paying an inflated price to profit a greedy middle man. The true labourer is not being compensated fairly. Needless to say, I refused, and continue to hope that one day the high up buyers will take it upon themselves to find out if the 'Nepalese' products they purchase are indeed made in Nepal. Sadly, there continues to be so much dishonesty.

Some good news to update on the land: We are able to access more of our funding, giving us new hope. Money that I was expecting to take much longer to come in will soon arrive. I would also like to say a very special thank you to Diana Brugos for generously donating to our project. You are right, every little bit counts. I hope that it is not just through my words but my service to other women that you feel my gratitude!

Also, thank you to Lauren Kaljur for helping us share the stories and progress on our website. What a wonderful surprise to have you show up so willing to help! I look forward to our relationship continuing to grow. Namaste.