Despite hardships, I never gave up my dream: starting my own business!
January 10, 2023
My name is Rajmati Lawad. I am 39 years old. My father has worked as a bonded labourer until his death. I had to quit school. But I did not give up my dream. After a long struggle, not only did I manage to open my shop but now I also employ five other women.
I was born in a small town called Brahmadev in Kanchanpur district. I have seven siblings, four brothers and three sisters. My father was a bonded labourer all his life. He got sick and, however hard he worked, we did not have enough savings for the medical treatment he needed. He passed away when I was 14 years old. Since then, my mother struggled alone to support the family.
After finishing high school, I went to university in Mahendranagar to pursue a bachelor’s degree. But, over time, my university fees, accommodation and travel expenses had become a burden to my family. I had no other choice choice but to quit my studies after three years and start working. I went to India and worked as a sports teacher. When my mother got ill, I had to find a way to support her treatment. When I came back to Nepal, nothing had changed. My family was still striving for a better life.
After my mother passed away, my eldest brother had to take the responsibility for the family but it hard for him. Without any skill, he could not earn enough money to sustain the family. Except for me, the rest of my siblings have only finished primary school. My sisters got married but marriage was never a priority to me. I was focused on my study and work.
I started a shop in the city centre with a few cosmetic items but I have always wanted to do more. I found out about the training on hand embroidery by the Rashtriya Haliya Muktha Samaj. A total of 25 people participated. After the training, my life changed significantly. I learnt different embroidering techniques and implemented those to design purses, shawls, sari, and other accessories for weddings. I was very pleased that my embroidery products became very popular amongst the villagers. Women like to visit my shop to embroider their clothes. Sometimes they bring pictures of the design and request to customize the products accordingly. Encouraged by this, I started selling hand-embroidered pillow covers, tablecloths, television and basket covers.
With the growing demand, I realized the potential need to expand the business. Therefore, I opened a dedicated shop to sell the embroidery in Brahmadev. I took a loan of $1,875 from the local cooperative to open the shop. The earnings from the shops are sufficient to pay back the interest of the loan. At present, I own two shops.
I recruited five women who did the training with me to work in the embroidery shop. I pay them a decent wage. Most of my earnings go on buying more products for the shop. I also support my brother and his family. Since my brother works in the field, his income is not adequate to support his family. Unfortunately, I had to put everything on hold because of the pandemic.
At the beginning of the pandemic, I had to close the shops. My business went into loss. Despite the crisis, I had to pay the rent for the shops and the interests on the loan. It made me anxious. During this time, only a few customers visited the shop. Now, the shops are open again. However, they must adhere to the country’s strict COVID-19 control measures. I am desperately waiting for the pandemic to end. Like me, many people are going through a similar financial crisis. This might push small businesses at risk and force them to shut down permanently.
But I didn’t give up my dreams and I am still planning to expand the business.
Rajmati has received livelihood support through the ILO Bridge project, funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, together with over 1’000 beneficiaries. Following the training, participants received a certificate attesting to their new skills. This certificate is nationally recognized, meaning it is valued by employers. In addition, they also participated in enterprise development training (“Start and Improve Your Own Business” course), which includes everything from soft skills to building a business plan.
As a result of the project:
87.6% of participants are using the trade skills they learned
60% started their own business within 8 months
48% of beneficiaries experienced an income increase, among which 69.4% used some of the income on their children’s schooling.