Lily’s Leaves, Empowering Survivors through Economic as well as Psychological Well Being!

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Despite working in their respective fields for over a decade, Ms. Shrestha and Ms. Katuwal were dissatisfied with the lack of creativity and decision making opportunities in their job. Utilizing the free time brought by the pandemic, they decided to work together by combining their core areas: mental health and skill building. Their mission is to heal survivor’s traumatic experiences by improving their quality of life and making them more confident. 

A couple of weeks back we connected with Ms. Shrestha and Ms. Katuwal, who answered all of our questions about their entrepreneurial journey and upcoming visions for their venture.

Read our conversation to find out more about this emerging venture here.

How did the idea come about?

Due to our decade long experience, we had knowledge about the condition in Province 2 in regards to abuse and rape victims. In addition, this province also has a variety of skills such as Mithila arts, basket making, etc. So, we started with the core objective to support women survivors, who lack self esteem and motivation, by giving them psychological support and developing their skills. We planned to make them financially independent  through their acquired skills.

What is the inspiration behind the unique name of your company?

Lily represents light of life while leaves represent creating something organic. It also links to our main target area i.e. Province 2, which is rich in natural resources. Hence, we combined the two together to create this unique name. 

Can you tell me more about the company and the services that you are currently offering?

We bring survivors from different districts of Province 2 to Kathmandu. After such traumatic experiences, women are stigmatized. So, we aspire to free them from such pressure by bringing them to Kathmandu. We have two parts within the organization; one being mental health research and other is vocational training. We also have a hostel to keep our trainees during the time period. In addition, we provide monthly stipends to teach them about basic management skills as well as develop their ability to source raw materials from the market by themselves.

Currently, we have two training sessions, which are jewelry making and tailoring. In jewelry making, we make them either from silver or brass. The jewelry is made based on the designs sent from the UK and are shipped back to them. In tailoring, women are making cotton masks, which are being used for donations in Janakpur. From the mental health aspect, we coordinate with communities to meet survivors and look for areas to provide additional support.

Who are your allies in running the business?

We currently have a total of 9 staff, who assist in different training. Our main partner is ChoraChori UK who provide us with the funds. We also have a crucial local partner, Mithila Wildlife Trust who support us to reach communities  in Province 2. Moreover, we are also working with Our Sansar charity to support their street children home in Janakpur for mental health related issues. 

What were the main challenges in starting this venture?

There are two major issues that we face due to our target population. It is not easy to visit communities and discuss mental health issues. Most people take it for granted while survivors are also unaware about their basic rights. So, it becomes highly challenging to conduct awareness and show them the importance of skill building to improve their mental health. On the other hand, there are communication issues. Most people do not understand Nepali so messages can be diluted when using a translator. 

What are your future plans for this enterprise?

We believe in empowering, not only economically but also through psychological well being. In this regard, one significant factor that we discovered for higher abuse rate is lack of discussion among people about such incidences. Hence, in the future, we plan to create a system to make women from the community gather once a week to share their personal issues. Such discussion can lead to better problem solving. In regards to economic development, we want to train more women from our core target area i.e. Province 2 and find opportunities in the market to sell their products. 

How has this entrepreneurial  journey been so far for you?

As claimed by many entrepreneurs, an entrepreneurial journey is never a smooth one. Especially due to COVID-19 pandemic, it led us to several unanticipated hurdles. Despite all the ups and downs,  it has been quite thrilling for us to see our dream turn into reality. We feel immense satisfaction when we get to implement our own creative ideas and make decisions for our venture.

Is there any additional suggestion you would like to give to other emerging entrepreneurs?

Throughout our collaboration to form this venture, we realized that there are endless possibilities and unexplored avenues. Nevertheless, it is crucial to be creative and seek collaborations for a better result. For emerging entrepreneurs, we suggest to explore beyond the confines of Kathmandu valley and discover innovative ideas for community development. It is high-time now that we utilize local skills and resources.

Lily’s Leaves is looking for market opportunities to sell their amazing products. Let’s encourage empowerment and provide them such opportunities.  

Contact: Ms. Hashana Shrestha; Ms. Lily Katuwal KC

Interviewed and article by Shreeya Bhattarai