Deep diving into the lives of five Nepali women entrepreneurs

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For almost 2 years that Blincventures.com has been in the entrepreneurial community, we have noticed that women participating in events and conferences are less compared to their male counterparts.
A recent study by the South Asian Women’s Development Forum reveals that there are only 11% of women entrepreneurs in Nepal. Many challenges such as lack of support, recognition, role models or having to give up a full-time job and therefore financial dependence might hamper their entrepreneurial aspirations.
Out of curiosity, we reached out to eight inspiring women entrepreneurs to find out what encouraged them to set sail in the male-dominated entrepreneurial world and their journey so far. This was done in hopes that we could present their challenges and motivation to aspiring women entrepreneurs or girls starting out on their careers. Fresh off the interviews, here’s what five of them had to share. 

Bhawana Shrestha, Cofounder of My Emotions Matter

“I was so hurt, angry and disgusted to see this child who was raped and my inability to help her. Because she represented how unjust our society was towards women, something I encountered very often while growing up.”

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Being a girl growing up in a remote place in Eastern Nepal, Bhawana’s dream was to become one of those journalists that appeared in the magical box called TV. Soon she noticed the lack of representation of her community in TV programs, which was indeed lower for women. Besides, she realized that women were limited by many social restrictions and difficulties, thus, unless she stood by herself, a similar fate would be waiting for her.

At the age of 17, Bhawana was given the opportunity to work as an anchor in a local TV program. During those three years, she traveled across rural areas of Nepal to cover stories and testimonials related to domestic violence and sexual abuses. In 2012, she found an anecdote that was a definite turning point in her career: a gang rape of a 12-year-old girl, after many years of bullying. The cruelty behind that story and the powerlessness of not being able to help her made Bhawna see things in a different light. Maybe if she were the teacher that this girl did not have or the confidant that this girl could express to everything could have turned out differently.

Therefore, Bhawana started working as a teacher in a remote village. Through her interactions with her students, she realized the power of the emotions. She researched further in this unknown field called emotional intelligence and along with her partner, founded My Emotions Matter. Her company educates people on an approach to manage and nurture interpersonal relationships marked by greater self-understanding and empathy. 

Jesselina Rana and Shubhangi Rana, Cofounders at Pad2Go

“It was very interesting to understand the challenges that we wanted to take on and  turn them into a self-sustainable social enterprise while ensuring that it makes a positive impact on society.”

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Shubhangi and Jesselina started Pad2Go as a passion project focused on menstruation as it was an issue close to their hearts. Even though they grew up in a city like Kathmandu, they felt that something was not right when it came to acceptance of menstruation in society. 

Only after having a dialogue with women and girls from rural areas, they saw the true scale of the taboo surrounding the topic of menstruation.  Things were so normalized that the women in the rural area didn’t even know what they were going through. When living with a taboo, we do not even realize how our lives would be without it and how these restrictions are impacting us.  The taboos are so internalized that they never thought of breaking them.

But it was high time for the duo to break this barrier and think about what they wanted for the future generation. They took it upon themselves to play a crucial role to eradicate these taboos through their company Pad2Go that installs sanitary napkin vending machines. 

Tiffany Tong and Sonika Manandhar, Cofounders at Aeloi Technology

“Finance and technology can come together to build digital financial footprints and help women access affordable finance by proving that they have the credibility to receive a loan from formal banks.”

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Coming from a family with a transportation background, Sonika knows the pain points of the public transportation industry from two dimensions: as a user and as an owner. This shaped her aspirations of wanting to work in the field of transportation. Similarly, Tiffany grew up around strong and persistent women who pushed the boundaries of what society labeled as the ability of females. This inspired her to continue to push the boundaries of the patriarchal society.

These aspirations led them to work with the Safa Tempo sector, a wonderful 25 years old women-run industry that was not growing at its desirable pace due to one major financial reason- affordable financing for women to buy batteries required for the tempo.
Digging deeper they found that women couldn’t access financial instruments because they rarely owned properties that could be used as collateral for bank loans. This crucial understanding of the challenge led these two young entrepreneurs to integrate finance and technology to develop a way to help safa tempo women drivers and owners to upgrade their electric vehicle technologies. 

During this journey, they had to convince many people that they were capable of entering an innovative and complex industry like fintech, especially as women entrepreneurs. However, overcoming all these hurdles, Sonika and Tiffany today stand tall as one of the first women-led fintech startups in Nepal for women driven by women. 

Interviewed and article by Eva Villardón Grande
Supported by Trishna Shakya

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