There is a saying that roughly goes “if you give a person a fish, you feed them for a day, but if you teach that person to fish, you feed them for a lifetime”.  For some underprivileged women of Pharping, “teaching how to fish,” came in the form of training on tailoring that we conducted through the support from our wonderful program partners, Global GLOW.

Just last month, Rukmini Foundation officially registered a women’s group, an independent self-help group, called “Yog Mahila Udhyami Samuha.” The name of the group translates to Yog Women Entrepreneurs’ Group. Yog, which is commonly referred to in the rest of the world as Yoga, is a Sanskrit word meaning union and the Foundation crafted this name to realize our dream of the union between economic independence and empowerment of the group’s members.

Yog Mahila group members and Rukmini Foundation staff all look happy after receiving registration certificate from Dakshinkali municipality

This type of group, widely known as a Self-Help Groups (SHG), has been a popular approach to uplift the social and economic status of women worldwide and has been promoted by donors and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). 

Many NGOs have been providing various skill-based training, hoping to economically and socially empower their members. Unfortunately, most of the NGOs stop at training and do not give support beyond the formation of SHGs. In reality, without linkages with income generating activities, most of the SHGs become defunct and the mission of uplifting the economic and social status of its members remain unfulfilled.    

In order to avoid this pitfall, and to make this mission real and create a successful SHG, we needed to think beyond formation and training. We had to think about sustainable strategies, so after the completion of the tailoring training, provided by a World Bank certified trainer, Rukmini Foundation held meetings with the members to decide the next steps.


The tailoring training was provided to 11 local women of Pharping region with the financial support from Global G.L.O.W

After a few rounds of consultations, the group decided that they wanted to venture into the tailoring business. In order to officially start a business, Rukmini Foundation worked with the group and the local government to register as an official business. In addition, the Foundation worked with local schools to create a market for this business as they agreed to have the women’s group be the providers of school uniforms. These were the first few steps taken by the Foundation to make this group sustainable. Not only did the women know how to fish, but they had a fishing permit and knew where the fish were going to be.  

These strategies have already paid off as the group received a few large orders from the local schools for the new school year, including from our partner schools. Most of the members were very nervous as this was their first attempt at such a big order and without having a lot of experience making uniforms, however, their collective strength gave them the confidence they needed to push ahead. The first order of uniforms was delivered successfully, and the group received a fair payment for their hard work.

Taking measures to make uniform for students from local schools

This development made all of us very happy, especially the members of this collective. Karuna Sunar is one such member and she shared that, “I have been to other trainings like this in the past, but from the start, I felt this was different as Rukmini Foundation was looking beyond merely giving us training. They were thinking of how to keep us going after the training by registering the group and linking us with income generating opportunities, such as making uniforms for the local schools. Now I believe that I may finally be able to make my own money through my skills.”

Mangal Kumari Tamang (front) shows her tailoring skill during the training

Mangal Kumari Tamang, another member of the group, added, “I found this group to be very friendly from the start, and I felt I belonged here. I was a little worried that our skills from training might be lost if we do not get to practice. However, I am very lucky that I am making uniforms with the skill that I learnt here. Whatever money I will make from this group will go towards my family’s welfare”.

These are very encouraging signs, however, we are aware that improvement in the quality of tailoring and exploration of new markets are key for the sustainability of the group. To address this, we are planning to provide advanced tailoring training and provide further marketing support for the group in the near future.

Radhika Kingring (right) giving instructions to one of the trainees

According to Radhika Kingring, a World Bank certified tailoring trainer, “providing solely training is not enough for economic empowerment of women. Right from the start, I found this group to be different as they were eager to learn because they knew they would get support from the [Rukmini] Foundation for business set-up after the training. I believe training and support for business opportunities should go hand in hand.” 

The “teach a person to fish” proverb sounds great and has a lot of truth in it, but what we have learned here through experience is that it is not just about teaching, but creating an environment for success. This environment is only possible through strong collaboration between organizations like NGOs, local government, community leaders, and educational institutions. We are very grateful to our own partners Global GLOW for supporting this program. Without their support, the women would not have the equipment on top of the training they received. Through our strong collaboration with the women’s group and schools, we were able to identify a market for their new skill, and through our work with the local government, we were able to have them operate in an official capacity. Teaching them to fish (tailor) was very important, but it was the combination of all of these things that has resulted in one of the biggest successes we have seen in our nearly 12 years of operations. We are witnessing a true union “Yog” of economic independence and empowerment through this amazing program.

About Nabin Aryal

Dr. Nabin Aryal led the foundation’s work in Nepal from the inception till April 2015. He is now serving as a special adviser from his new home in Myanmar where he works with the US and Nepal Teams to provide strategic guidance for the foundation. He received a PhD in Economics from Hitotsubashi University and has been managing NGO programs in underdeveloped areas in Nepal, India and Sri Lanka and has extensive experience in grassroots development efforts.
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