KATHMANDU, NEPAL — Colorful bags made of traditional Nepalese fabrics line Ganga Kumari Rana’s stall at the 28th Industrial Products and Technology Expo in this country’s capital city.
Rana came all the way from Syangja district, a trip of more than 230 kilometers (more than 140 miles), to show off her products. Such an experience would have been unthinkable in the past.
“In the beginning, nobody in the village used to believe that we could earn money from making bags in this way,” Ranasays.
Now, she earns a profit of about 30,000 Nepalese rupees (about $293) a month – a healthy sum in rural Nepal. Her bags are shipped internationally, and her business, Shreesha Bag Industry, is valued at about 300,000 rupees (about $2,927).
Rana started her business in 2014 after she took a month-long bag-making workshop. But its increasing success is due at least in part to a new emphasis by the government on helping women who start their own businesses.
The Industrial Enterprises Act, passed in 2016, launched a series of subsidies and tax waivers for female entrepreneurs.
The government, for the first time, now legally recognizes micro-entrepreneurs, and female micro-entrepreneurs can register their businesses for free, avoiding the usual 50,100-rupee (about $489) fee. There’s also an income tax waiver that’s available for at least five years, says Purusottam Nepal, a spokesperson at the Ministry of Industry.
Any woman-owned business can now get a 35 percent waiver on registration and a 20 percent waiver on the registration fee for intellectual property rights, he says.
Nepalese women have long been confined to their kitchens, says Krishna Hari Baskota, chief information commissioner of the National Information Commission. Now, he says, they’re gaining economic independence.
The waiver policy for female entrepreneurs reflects Nepal’s new constitution, which ensures equal rights for women, Baskota adds.
There’s no data on the exact number of female entrepreneurs in Nepal, but Bhawani Rana, president of the Federation of Woman Entrepreneurs’ Associations of Nepal, estimates there are about 30,000 across the country right now.
Women say programs to aid their success could lead to more men staying in Nepal, rather than moving abroad for work.
Ramila Khadka, 37, a native of Abu Khaireni, in the Tanahun district, came to the 28th Industrial Products and Technology Expo with plastic handicraft items made through her business, Chimkeswori Plastic Handicraft Industry, which she launched two years ago. Khadka and her partners each earn 15,000 to 20,000 rupees ($146 to $195) a month from this business, she says.
Her husband has worked in Oman for the last eight years, Khadka says, leaving her with their two children.
“My husband has to spend the prime of his life working overseas just to look after the family,” she says.
If she’d had her business when her husband first left, she says, he wouldn’t have had to go.
Sagar Ghimire, GPJ, translated this story from Nepali.
This article was originally published on Global Press Journal.