A visit to Sarlahi, southeast Nepal

Written by Philip Holmes on Wednesday 28th July 2021

In July 2021, Lily Katuwal, co-Founder of our Kathmandu-based social enterprise, Lily's Leaves, visited Sarlahi District. This is one of the eight Districts that lie within our main operational area of Province 2, southeast Nepal. Sarlahi can feel like a very different part of Nepal - shockingly so - to an outsider, including to a visitor from Kathmandu valley, like Lily.

Lily meeting with possible trainees - note the enthusiasm reflected in the girls' faces

Sarlahi has a population of around 770,000, its main economic claims to fame being growing tomatoes and producing sugar from sugar cane. The District's principal religions are Hindu (85%), Islam (10%) and Buddhism (3%). Interestingly, only 12% of the population speaks Nepali as a first language, with 49% speaking Bajjika and 21% Maithili. Some 36% speak Hindi as their second language and 21% Nepali. This is one reason why Lily's visit is so important, as she was identifying vulnerable young women who could benefit from six months' residential training on a Lily's Leaves basic tailoring course in Kathmandu. With language and citizenship limitations, these women would have no chance of accessing high-quality vocational training at other Kathmandu valley centres.

Lily was intrigued on one hand, stunned on the other. Her perspective, shared with me by e-mail was as follows:

"There's no proper school and actually there's no education system for girls. There's no toilet, no safety for girls, there's no rights for girls. Even for this training their family decide if they will go for it or not. Girls have no right to decide their own life. There's no proper food, no proper clothes, no education even where they are doing farming that land does not belong to them. I don't think children who grow up here have a good future, they haven't seen anything and they have no idea where Kathmandu is. I really want to learn more about this community and why these things are happening."

It is small wonder that these girls and women are so vulnerable to Gender-Based-Violence (GBV), including rape, and to being trafficked across the open border into India.

A cluster of interest and curiosity surrounds Lily against a backdrop of rural poverty

A Province 2 social worker, Mr Pachu Mahji, accompanied Lily, using his close knowledge of the community to help Lily identify suitable candidates. The response from the women was enthusiastic, particularly so now that suspicions have been allayed by the knowledge that some women from Province 2 have already successfully completed the course earlier this year. In fact, at least two of them wish to return to Lily's Leaves for the follow-on six months' advanced tailoring course. 

Lily had hoped to find ten new students to start next week, to join the ten students from Kathmandu valley itself who started training this week. In the end, 14 women from Sarlahi have asked to be considered, meaning that we will need to create extra bed spaces and purchase additional sewing machines and materials. Quite possibly, this number might reduce over the coming few days, but we are keen to give them all a chance.

Residential training for one young woman for six months costs the following in Nepalese rupees:

  • Return travel = 10,000 - including for a mid-term break at the 3-month point
  • Clothes  = 3,000 - women will need warm/culturally appropriate clothing for Kathmandu
  • Medical care = 6,000
  • Travel and recreation = 1,500 - this includes outings within Kathmandu to explore this exciting city
  • Stipend and training allowance = 30,000 - we empower women during training with a training allowance for living expenses
  • Training materials = 15,000
  • Sewing machine = 12,500 - that the trainee keeps on completion of training so that they can earn an income upon returning to their village
  • Rent = 15,000
  • Operating cost of women's hostel = 6,500
  • Staff salary of training =  15,000
  • Bedding = 18,000

This comes to a total of NPR132,500 which is approximately £850.

Recipients of dignity-pads

During the visit, Lily distributed 158 packs of five "dignity-pads" (reusable sanitary pads) to girls and young women that will help them live their lives and reduce absenteeism/drop-outs from school. As a win-win outcome, these pads are being made by women who are producing these at Lily's Leaves. But Lily observed that women from these communities even lack any clothes, so we will see how we can address this need in the future. The answer seems to be to train the future trainers who can operate a satellite tailoring training/production centre in Province 2 itself. This will be a much more cost-effective approach to training girls and women in these poor communities. At present, the necessary trainer skills just can't be sourced locally. But let's hope we can launch this project next year.

Meeting an enthusiastic woman and her mother

Finally, if you can help us with meeting the costs of one woman for six months, do let us know, as we are now faced with a need that exceeds our budget. Lily met with one 18-year-old woman from the extremely marginalised Musahar ("rat-eater") "untouchable" community whose mother was particularly keen that she seize this opportunity towards independent living. The woman had to drop out of school at Class 3 level, due to the financial and other reasons that conspire against girls' prospects in south Nepal. We can do something about that. If you can become a sponsor we would be very happy to keep you informed on her progress. Just email me if you would like to know more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Something to look forward to - the latest intake of ten vulnerable girls from the local community in Kathmandu valley who started basic tailoring training at Lily's Leaves this week

Share this page:

Similar Articles

The Dhanushadham Bird Park
The Dhanushadham Bird Park

The Dhanushadham Bird Park is a new joint initiative by Pipal Tree and The Mithila Wildlife Trust through which we will merge art, education and the rapid-growth reforestation "Miyawaki Method" to create a forest that will provide a focus for birdlife, ecotourism - and inspiration for the next generation.

19 Sep 2021

Philip's Pennine Way Challenge
Philip's Pennine Way Challenge

Philip Holmes is inviting you to join him for a leg or more of his Pennine Way challenge in September 2022

17 Sep 2021

Using eco-brick technology in Nepal
Using eco-brick technology in Nepal

In our school capital development project in southeast Nepal, we are using eco-bricks to protect the environment, construct stronger and cooler buildings and reduce building costs.

31 Aug 2021

August 2021 update on our community reforestation projects in Nepal
August 2021 update on our community reforestation projects in Nepal

This is an update on our reforestation project that has become a highly successful model for engagement with the local community and the Department of Forestry in Nepal.

1 Aug 2021

The 2021 Big Give Christmas Challenge
The 2021 Big Give Christmas Challenge

Pipal Tree is once again taking part in The Big Give Christmas Challenge - your opportunity to double or even quadruple the value of your gift.

18 Jul 2021

Pooling resources and combining fundraising efforts to get the job done in Nepal
Pooling resources and combining fundraising efforts to get the job done in Nepal

Pipal Tree has joined forces with Our Sansar and Guy's Trust to ensure that we met the needs of the poorest people during the latest COVID lockdown in Nepal

23 Jun 2021

Ready, steady, Offa we go.....
Ready, steady, Offa we go.....

My personal summer challenge to raise funds for Lily's Leaves in Nepal

18 Jun 2021

The summer 2021 Big Give appeal for Nepal
The summer 2021 Big Give appeal for Nepal

Pipal Tree offers you a chance to donate to either Education or Women's Empowerment projects (or both!) in Nepal with the chance of your online donation doubling in value through matching pledges available in The Big Give.

24 May 2021

"Our Finest Year" - Pipal Tree releases its 2020 annual report and accounts
"Our Finest Year" - Pipal Tree releases its 2020 annual report and accounts

In spite of the operational restrictions and financial downturn that came with COVID, 2020 was in many respects Pipal Tree's "finest year".

23 May 2021

The Pipal Tree Big Give emergency appeal for COVID relief in Nepal
The Pipal Tree Big Give emergency appeal for COVID relief in Nepal

Today Pipal Tree launches a one-week Big Give emergency relief appeal in response to the COVID pandemic in Nepal

13 May 2021

Actress and Pipal Tree Ambassador Amrita Acharia appeals for gifts towards COVID emergency relief in Nepal
Actress and Pipal Tree Ambassador Amrita Acharia appeals for gifts towards COVID emergency relief in Nepal

The actress Amrita Acharia, who has Ukrainian-Nepalese roots, appeals for donations towards a Pipal Tree appeal for emergency COVID relief in Nepal. Through The Big Give, all online donations can automatically double in value.

12 May 2021

Reforestation in Nepal
Reforestation in Nepal

Pipal Tree is working in collaboration with the Gemma and Chris McGough Charitable Foundation, the Nepal Department of Forests and the Mithila Wildlife Trust to restore a community forest at Bhatighadi, Dhanusha District, southeast Nepal.

29 Apr 2021

Remembering Nepal in your will
Remembering Nepal in your will

When writing or updating your will, please remember Pipal Tree's work in Nepal that you can support as an enduring legacy.

28 Apr 2021

Supporting Lily's Leaves through The Big Give
Supporting Lily's Leaves through The Big Give

We are inviting your support through The Big Give to Lily's Leaves, our partner social enterprise in Nepal. A Kathmandu project, this wonderful new initiative is already making a difference to the lives of vulnerable young women - female empowerment in action!

22 Apr 2021

From Tragedy to Trustee
From Tragedy to Trustee

Teacher and teacher-trainer Caroline Milne joined our Board of Trustees in October 2020. She brings a wealth of experience within the education sector to the table, but also a compassion and commitment that has been forged and focussed through a tragedy in her own life.

18 Mar 2021

The Virgin London Marathon in the time of COVID
The Virgin London Marathon in the time of COVID

Pipal Tree's involvement in the 2021 London Marathon will be different for two major reasons.

10 Mar 2021

A three-legged stool
A three-legged stool

Our ambitious new school project in south Nepal blends three of our core interests into one harmonious plan

6 Mar 2021

Nepal's Guernica
Nepal's Guernica

2021 is a critical year for the planet. U.S. Climate Envoy, John Kerry, has described November's COP26 climate conference as our last chance to take action and save the planet. As a contribution to the national and global discussion, Pipal Tree will launch a high profile and ambitious urban reforestation project in Nepal to improve the environment, educate and raise awareness about the disaster that is already upon us. Our "Nepal's Guernica" project that has a direct link to Picasso.

11 Feb 2021

Support to a Madrasa
Support to a Madrasa

I was very pleased to receive these pictures this morning of our school extension project underway, as implemented by our local partner NGO, the Mithila Wildlife Trust.

8 Feb 2021