• Project Nepal: Beautiful teas with a mission

    Project Nepal: Beautiful teas with a mission

    For Project Nepal, Rishi Tea is partnering with FWEAN – the Federation of Women's Entrepreneur Associations of Nepal. This organization was founded 10 years ago to oversee previously established WEAN district-level chapters across Nepal. WEAN itself turns 25 years old this year. FWEAN works to bring education and empowerment to women in need, via training, microfinance, marketing and advocacy with the Nepal government. Their methods are very grassroots; they assess the exiting skills and resources within the community, then provide tools that complement their ability. In other words, this is not top-down style, but rather encouraging what's already there to flourish, gaining trust and building long-term relationships.
  • FWEAN at work: Constant field visits and coaching

    FWEAN at work: Constant field visits and coaching

    This is Pani Ghat, a small village on the outskirts of Kathmandu. We're here with the chief program coordinator in this area, Meena Karki, to visit a vegetable farm project. Ms. Karki has been with FWEAN for several years and has previous experience with advocacy groups like Oxfam. She says field visits like this are an important part of the operations of FWEAN; local leaders will visit projects in their area once or twice each month.
  • FWEAN at work: From poorest of poor, to successful farmers

    FWEAN at work: From poorest of poor, to successful farmers

    These visits help them constantly assess needs in the field. Today, the farmers are making plans to travel to Kathmandu and file as a registered business - in the names of the women involved. This will help them expand their growing farming needs. They will receive a letter saying WEAN takes responsibility for them, which they can take to the bank and secure further loans. FWEAN is a registered micro-lender with the Nepal government and works to reach underserved female populations, who would otherwise be ineligible for business loans. Without someone to back them, banks request steep collateral, co-signers (which is a problem for women with spouses overseas), and interest of 30% or higher.
  • FWEAN at work: From poorest to poor, to successful farmers

    FWEAN at work: From poorest to poor, to successful farmers

    Registering as a business is an important step for women entrepreneurs in Nepal; having things in their own name, whether it's their house, business or land, helps establish their independent identity and allows them access to services granted to Nepali citizens. In rural areas, not all residents have their own citizenship papers.
  • FWEAN at work: From poorest to poor, to successful farmers

    FWEAN at work: From poorest to poor, to successful farmers

    This woman started the vegetable project here in Pani Ghat. She came to WEAN 11 years ago, having just 2 rupees of savings. Before then, she was what is called a stonecutter; she would gather large rocks and bang them until they broke into smaller pieces and sell those as gravel. Our FWEAN host described this as the lowest of menial labor, an unfortunate reality for women without training and development in Nepal.
  • FWEAN at work: From poorest to poor, to successful farmers

    FWEAN at work: From poorest to poor, to successful farmers

    Mushrooms were coming up for harvest during our visit. The women built these shaded mushroom fields and grow many delicious varieties. To start their farm, they received an initial loan of 10,000 rupees; 5,000 of that went into making just the mulch alone. Now, to increase their operations, they need about 40,000 rupees, as costs for food and agriculture in Nepal have risen significantly in recent years.
  • FWEAN at work: From poorest to poor, to successful farmers

    FWEAN at work: From poorest to poor, to successful farmers

    The ladies say, "Even though it is too late for us to receive an education, now we can afford an education for our own children."
  • FWEAN at work: The vibrancy of Nepali spices

    FWEAN at work: The vibrancy of Nepali spices

    Next, we take a spicy visit to Kathmandu… where FWEAN member Sitara Rajbhandari started selling spices in 2000 from NASAA Certified Organic farms. Her business is called Spicy Home Spices.
  • FWEAN at work: The vibrancy of Nepali spices

    FWEAN at work: The vibrancy of Nepali spices

    Ms. Rajbhandari (center) now maintains an active international client list, especially in Japan. She says her buyers appreciate the bright freshness of Nepali spices, compared to the stale, warehoused bulk spices they used to receive from other import markets.
  • FWEAN at work: The vibrancy of Nepali spices

    FWEAN at work: The vibrancy of Nepali spices

    Spicy Home only employs women. Ms. Rajbhandari says simply, "Men have opportunities here; women lack them." The women she employs are uneducated, sent to Spicy Home by their families, as a safe place to work. Most only have a 3rd grade education, and some could barely sign their names when they started working.
  • FWEAN at work: The vibrancy of Nepali spices

    FWEAN at work: The vibrancy of Nepali spices

    This is Meya. She started working at Spicy Home in 2000, when she was just 16 years old and also illiterate. Now, she is a supervisor to the other spice workers. Currently, the female literacy rate in Nepal is about 42%. For men, it is 65%.
  • FWEAN at work: An incredible weaver shares her experience

    FWEAN at work: An incredible weaver shares her experience

    In Dhankuta district (eastern Nepal), FWEAN member Benikumari Khadka (right) weaves traditional dhaka handloom. This cloth is used in the Nepali national dress, although making it by hand is almost a dying art form.
  • FWEAN at work: An incredible weaver shares her experience

    FWEAN at work: An incredible weaver shares her experience

    In her 26 years of practice, Ms. Khadka has personally trained more than 1,000 weavers, in an effort to revive this beautiful art form. One large shawl can take up to 5 days of work. Colors we noticed everywhere in traditional Nepali art include rich red, turmeric gold, turquoise, eggplant, maroon – beautiful jewel tones.
  • Member-owned shops and markets

    Member-owned shops and markets

    FWEAN also helps to establish local shops where member producers, like Ms. Khadka, can sell their personal crafts.
  • Reaching those in need, near and far

    Reaching those in need, near and far

    The method of teaching a skill to local women, then helping them establish either their own shop or contact with a member market, has worked well for FWEAN to reach disconnected populations.
  • FWEAN trainings: The heart of the mission

    FWEAN trainings: The heart of the mission

    What goes on during a typical FWEAN training activity? Here in Dhankuta, a lesson in saucy resourcefulness...
  • Making full use of a bumper crop

    Making full use of a bumper crop

    Most of the women here are smallholder farmers, growing vegetables just for their families. They had an abundance of tomatoes this year, but didn't know how to use them all before they went to waste.
  • Hands-on skills and teaching

    Hands-on skills and teaching

    FWEAN members came to teach them how to make spicy local-style ketchup, both as a food for themselves as well as a viable product to sell for business. Traditional sauces and chutneys here often use spiced ketchup as a base ingredient. The techniques of flavoring, cooking and canning for preservation are covered in a hands-on demonstration, with reference handouts for the women to take home.
  • Regaining confidence, one woman at a time

    Regaining confidence, one woman at a time

    These grassroots trainings, driven by local resources, are the heart of what makes FWEAN successful. Food and agricultural skill trainings include making pickles, dairy products, candy, dried fruit, chutneys, vermiculture technique, composting and mushroom farming. FWEAN provides educational opportunities in other sectors, too, along with guidance on costing, marketing and new business set-up. In learning these skills, women grow to trust again and develop the confidence to steer their lives in a better direction.
  • Re-inspiring the wearied

    Re-inspiring the wearied

    FWEAN says they meet many who are disenfranchised, having been let down by international aide organizations not as informed or connected to the local community. They say some of these groups promise instant funding and results, with good intentions, but the long-term focus is not the same. Along with teaching women to do for themselves, FWEAN looks beyond the first year in a new business, to what has potential for future growth.
  • Network of empowered women

    Network of empowered women

    FWEAN currently has 20 local chapters (districts in Nepal), with 7 more coming online. Nepal is made up of 74 districts; if FWEAN opened a chapter in each one, they could reach 10% of the self-employed female population. This is their goal. From that 10% reached directly, members can teach skills to each other and to new potential members, helping them develop a business. This networking ability makes the approach very powerful.
  • The power of self-sufficiency and financial access

    The power of self-sufficiency and financial access

    Rishi Tea's Project Nepal will donate $2 directly to FWEAN for every kilo of tea purchased from Jun Chiyabari Tea Garden. These funds will be used for micro-finance opportunities and skills training for women. Micro-finance for FWEAN works similarly to Grameen Bank, a highly successful bank model that originated in Bangladesh and has since been utilized in other fragile and developing countries. Recipients who would otherwise be ineligible for a loan can receive no interest loans, with small frequent payments (usually weekly) and close contact with the supporting intermediary (FWEAN, in this case). For FWEAN, the typical loan amount can range from 2,000 to 100,000 rupees (about $20 to $1017 US dollars). This model has shown to be extremely effective; FWEAN has a 100% repayment rate and a large majority of recipients will return for future loans as their businesses expand.
  • Project Nepal: Beautiful teas with a mission

    Project Nepal: Beautiful teas with a mission

    Educated and empowered women mean a stronger Nepal, where one day, families won't be broken apart by the need to go overseas for opportunity. For Rishi Tea and our friends at Jun Chiyabari, it's our great joy to share such beautiful flavor and stories through our common love of tea, while at the same time raising awareness about the ongoing work that's happening every day for a better Nepal. Namaste!

    For further reading:
    UNDP in Nepal
    IRIN Humanitarian News and Analysis
    The Heritage Foundation
    Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting
    FWEAN Nepal
    WEAN Nepal (district-level operations for FWEAN)

Project Nepal: Who is FWEAN?

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