Breaking the stereotype that married women cannot balance family and work is Nirjala Craft. Let’s look at the journey of this empowering organization from Nirjala Shrestha- the founder of Nirjala Craft herself.
1. Tell me about your journey of starting this venture? When did it start?
I have always been more interested in creative work than in studies. And I also always wanted to break the stigma that family is the only thing a married woman should be concerned about. The perspective of society towards a married woman has definitely changed today. 16 years back, when I got married, there was this mindset that the daughters-in-law shouldn’t be working. In addition to this, the women were completely dependent upon their husbands and were not allowed to take any decisions. Further, there were lots of cases of domestic violence that are even prevalent today. All these things had always bothered me and I wanted to help these women.
Accordingly, I thought about passing on the skills to the women who are in need so that they can be economically empowered. Moreover, economic empowerment gives women the courage and freedom to stand on their own.
2. What is the legal status of your company? What stage is the company in?
The company was established 16 years back as a partnership firm but now after 15 years, I and my partner have mutually agreed to break the partnership and operate separately as a sole trading concern.
Since it has only been a year that Nirjala craft established as a sole trading concern, I would say that the company is in the growth stage looking for new opportunities and markets to explore.
3. What is the social problem that you are trying to solve or what social change do you see your product/service bringing in society?
As I mentioned earlier, I wanted to break this stigma that married women shouldn’t be working. We have been hearing the cases of women exploitation, domination and so on. So through Nirjala Craft, I want to make women empowered and independent.
Talking about the changes, we have been able to provide a stable income generation source to 65 women. Apart from the income, we have also been imparting skills to these women. We practice job rotation to ensure that women learn new skills and are not limited to only one particular skill.
4. What is your current staff strength and how many people did you start with?
16 years back, me and one of my college friends started this organization. Two of us did all the jobs from cutting to sewing to delivering the products to retailers and wholesalers. And with time, our business has grown. We also invested Rs. 3000 each from our pockets.
5. What challenges did you face while starting the company and what are the challenges you are facing right now?
The major challenge was that of manpower. Women hesitated to join us which I believe is due to the society and the culture we have. I wouldn’t say that there haven’t been any changes; a lot of changes have taken place. Women today do want to join us and work with us but still we face a shortage of manpower. In addition to this, another challenge is that of instant gratification. Women after working for a day want to be paid immediately which is not possible.
6. How did you overcome your challenges?
One of the reasons why women didn’t come and work with us was due to the family obligations- women have to look after their children, do household chores and so on. So to ensure that women can have a work-life balance, we provide them flexible work hours. They can work with us till 3 pm and go back and complete their jobs at home. So this way, they have been able to maintain a work-life balance.
7. What are the key needs of your company?
The key need as of now is to get as many orders as possible. In addition to this, we also need to be more detail-oriented. We need to look into the quality, quantity and all other small details because these products, at the end of the day, represent our nation.
8. What is the future plan for your company?
My plans are to work towards further betterment of Nepali women who have been the victims of exploitation and domination. In addition to this, I have also been planning to provide education to the children of women working with us.
9. Any other information that you would like to share?
I would like to talk about the work culture we have here at Nirjala Crafts. Workers and employees often complain that they don’t get their wages and salaries on time. So what I have done is that we pay the salary to the worker on 5th of every month and this has ensured loyalty and commitment from them. In addition to this, we have created a family work culture where all of us stick together as families and help each other in hard times. So we focus not only in the work and output, but I try my best to provide all the employees an environment to connect and grow in. This has motivated them a lot and this further motivates me to work for their betterment.
There is another thing I want to share, it’s more of a message to the younger generation. I want to say that no matter what you are doing and where you are, there is always a need for hard work; it’s not a choice rather it’s a necessity. So always work hard and have a vision and a goal in life. And yes, good things take time, so believe in the power of time and hard work.
Interviewed by Ashmita Rai
Article by Trishna Shakya