We all want and talk about change but how many of us are actually willing to do something to bring about the transformation we seek in the society? Today, it is heartwarming to see many individuals who have taken it upon themselves to do whatever they can to uplift those who are in need of it and thus change their communities and nation one idea at a time.
Prakriti Mainali, as the founders of Shakti Milan Nepal, is trying to bring about change by empowering marginalized women of Nepal. Mainali says that Shakti Milan Nepal is an initiative that aims to empower women in Nepal, especially those who hail from disadvantaged backgrounds, and help them to become entrepreneurs in their own rights.
“These women are trained in tailoring, knitting, sewing and are also taught various entrepreneurship skills that will help them when they eventually get around to running their own startups,” she says adding that the women Shakti Milan Nepal has had the opportunity to train and work with are very resilient and quick learners. They just hadn’t recognized their own potentials till Shakti Milan Nepal helped shed light on it.
Mainali confesses that she loves being the one to help these women become independent go-getters.
The idea for Shakti Milan transpired among Oliver Prothmann, Kerstin Prothmann, Gokul Subedi and Prakriti Mainali during the late 2014. The Prothmann couple – who are originally from Germany – were volunteering in Nepal at the time and were hosted by Subedi (Mainali’s husband) who is also a social activist. All four of them were deeply moved by how hard the lives of most (if not all) females from marginalized communities were and they set out to aid these women to the best of their abilities through Shakti Milan. Mainali, who is an MBA degree holder, is the one who currently operates most fronts of the organization.
The name Shakti Milan Nepal was inspired by the name of an initiative that facilitates health care and provides resources as well as looks into matters of human rights of women (plus their children) who are living with HIV/AIDS – Shakti Milan Samaj. “At first, we only took in women from Shakti Milan Samaj and trained them. A little while later, we realized that we were closing the door to so many other women with potential who could really benefit from the trainings,” explains Mainali. Shakti Milan Nepal then remodeled their working parameters and made it possible for women not linked to Shakti Milan Samaj to join their training sessions as well.
Although the organization started off by helping out a single woman, right now 23 women are associated with Shakti Milan Nepal. Some of them are getting trained, some work to manufacture their products and some are doing both of these at the same time. Currently, the Shakti Milan Nepal team is primarily focused on producing bags only. They have a variety of bags that are sold from various outlets in Kathmandu including Timro Concept Store, One Tree Stop, and their own showroom next to their warehouse in Dhapasi, Kathmandu. Mainali claims that they also attend a lot of local events and have a stall at the Le Sherpa Farmer’s Market every Saturday. Interested customers can buy their products from their official website or through Amazon too.
The biggest challenge Shakti Milan Nepal faced throughout its operation period, according to Mainali, has been getting sufficient loans from the Nepali banks to upgrade their performance and workings. “Banks are not very willing to hand money to startups for some reason. If the same person comes back to get a loan for personal reasons then they will complete the entire process in a heartbeat but they have left me hanging for more than six months now,” states Mainali.
She adds that our country does not provide a favorable atmosphere where entrepreneurs can thrive and flourish. “A lot of countries have policies and domains where entrepreneurs can really grow and do well. Nepal has to reevaluate a lot of its policies to see the same growth,” she says adding that, despite this slight hindrance, the Shakti Milan team is really working to the best of its ability to see to it that marginalized women are provided the help and opportunities that they are so desperately in need of.
“Empowering its women is the only way a nation can prosper,” she concludes.