Lakshu Bohora of Thehe village, Humla stitching clothes at her shop in this recent picture. Photo: Janak Bahadur Shahi
HUMLA, May 15: Lakshu Bohora of Thehe village of Humla had grown up seeing only a particular community involved in tailoring occupation. Back then she used to think that it is not something she is supposed to do or would do in future. “I used to work in farms and at home. I did not have any other skill to earn for my family,” reminisces Bohora. “I never considered learning tailoring skills as it was perceived that the occupation was done by a specific caste that was considered untouchable.”
Although occupation based discrimination was rampant in her village, people, in general, were all poor. They had no job, no opportunities. “Boys, when they grow up often go to Kalapahad (India) or cities within the country for employment. Women remain at home.”
Women’s life in Jumla is harder, according to Bohora. They have to depend on the husband or their male family members for even a little money. “We also work at home without taking any rest. But that does not pay us any money,” she said.
Bohora would dream of a day when she would not have to rely on any other for money. But that day was not easy to come by. “It is tough for village folks like us to get access to income generation opportunities.”
And that hard-to-come-by opportunity landed at her home a few years ago when an NGO approached her. They counselled her about vocational training and the way she could generate income at home after being trained. “They suggested that I should learn to tailor and that it would help me earn for my family. Along with me, they reached out to many other women and suggested the same,” she shared.
Their counselling changed the perception of women in the village toward caste-based occupation like tailoring. She signed up for the training. However, the training did not teach as she expected.
“Though they signed us up for training, they did not provide good training. Most of the time they would call us for discussions and meetings. There were rarely any training sessions on tailoring.”
Though she could not be a good tailor then, it nonetheless inspired her to be one someday. She thought a lot about it and one day she left for Nepalgunj for the training. That was four years ago.
“I joined a private training centre in Nepalgunj. After six months of training, I learned tailoring skills required for being a good tailor,” says an elated Bohora.
After getting back to her village, she opened up her tailoring shop with an initial investment of Rs 60,000. Since then, Bohora has not looked back. Dreams have come true for her.
“I got rid of poverty. My lifestyle has changed. I can spend on myself, on my children, my family. Family expenses are no more a burden for me,” she said. “Not just that, nowadays I am even able to make some savings too.”
Bohora is just an example. Tailoring has changed the life of many women in Humla. And more women are getting attracted toward the occupation.
According to Ganga Bohora, president of District Women Development Network, women have begun to realize the importance of economic empowerment. “A growing number of women are embracing tailoring. They have realized that even with a small investment, they can start their own business,” she said.
Ganga stated that more than others, single women have embraced the occupation. They are freer to get training and get quickly into the business. “For others, they need the permission of family members, unlike single women. And it is also true that single women are in more pressure to earn for themselves and children,” she said. “A lot of single women are into the profession or have expressed interest toward it.”
Despite the growing allure toward the profession, local women complain that the tailoring training provided by the government or NGOs are largely ineffective. Until and unless they learn it from a private institution, they don’t get the confidence to get into the business. Since around one and half decades, several NGOs, as well as the government, have been running programs focused on empowering women. These investments are primarily focused on improving farming skills and providing vocational training.
Lakshu Bohora thinks that the government should not only provide vocational training to women but also facilitate their integration into the market. Only then, women’s overall development would be ensured, she asserts.
“Tailoring is something women are now loving to learn and gradually being successful at. But everyone cannot afford to pay for private training as it cost very much,” she said. “NGOs or government-funded projects are just for namesake. I learned the basics of tailoring, but that was it. The training did not teach me more than that,” she added.
Though there is a lack of data on the number of women who have taken tailoring training, Ganga stated that respect for the occupation has been growing. “Earlier, men would not like to see their women opening a shop. They would not encourage women. However, now the scenario is changing.”