Subash Bikram Thapa, CONNECT Office Manager
The Far West of Nepal is underdeveloped and the livelihood of more than 80% of the District population depends on agriculture farming. However, due to low agricultural production most young people leave in search of employment. More than 50% of the population in the Mid and Far West of Nepal are women and over 70% of households are run by women.
CONNECT is offering income generation opportunities to women in remote areas through a partnership with Unilever Nepal Limited (UNL).
Last year, RAP3 CONNECT, in partnership with UNL appointed 100 Hamri Didis (HDs) from RAP 3 CONNECT core districts; Doti, Achham, Bajura, Dailekh and Jumla. The 100 women attended a 3-day training programme, organised by UNL to brief them about UNL products, sales techniques and the benefits of each product. Of the 100 HDs, 15 are from Bajura, a remote District in the Far West of Nepal.
My assignment was to activate these 15 HDs and identify a further 100 potential HDs from different, remote VDCs within Bajura.
During my field trip, I coordinated with government, local NGOs and private organisations as well as conducted small meetings with community stakeholders in visited areas to identify women with the potential to be HDs. CONNECT shortlists women that meet UNL’s minimum criteria, and UNL interviews candidates and appoints those that are successful.
I met with District Health Officer, Mr Rupchandra Bishwokarma who was positive about our concept, providing a list of community volunteer health workers in Bajura and suggesting we speak with them about the opportunity. I also met with representatives from the DDC, WDO, DSCI all of whom assisted us by providing suggestions for potential HDs in Bajura.
This kind of door-to-door sales service is new for women in Bajura, most women here engage in work within their homes. Previous experiences have required us to spend time familiarising women with RAP and CONNECT. Around 1 year ago, another agent came to Bajura with a business model for women and women made significant product investments; not long after the network closed and people lost money. The impact of this is that there has been some reluctance to invest and substantial orientation has been required to familiarise women with the HD model and to encourage participation .
Over two visits to Bajura, I have facilitated meetings between UNL’s supervisor Mr Pramod Mudbhari and 25 HDs. Combined these 25 HDs have invested NPR 160,523 to start their businesses. A further 50 women have been identified, soon to be formally appointed by UNL as HDs.
The HDs are from Kailashmandu, Toli, Chatara, Kuldevmandu, Bramhatola, Kolti, Kuru, Pandusen, Wai, Gotri, Kotila, Jagannath, Jukot, Barhabis and Gudukhati VDCs. Most of the HDs live 3 to 4 hours walk from the market. Hence, the main problem for HDs in Bajura is transportation. The women are ready to invest but it is difficult for women to purchase large quantities of stock at a time as they need to carry the loads over such long distances.
I hope that CONNECT’s partnership with UNL will create many more income opportunities and improve household sanitation practices in remote areas of Nepal, like Bajura.