The power of your purchase:
A lifeline to struggling Nepalese artisans
With eight of the ten tallest mountains in the world located in Nepal, the country relies on a thriving tourism sector and depends heavily on visitor spending. The fourth largest industry in Nepal is the main driver of the informal economy, such as street vendors, contract hotel or restaurant workers and artisans, which makeup more than 70 percent of work in the country.
A study conducted by the Government of Nepal last year, pointed to a near collapse of the tourism sector in which the country so heavily depends on. The report indicated that due to the Covid-19 pandemic, tourist arrivals in Nepal were almost 80% (230,085) less than the previous year. Out of the 37% of women who work in Nepal, the overwhelming majority (90.5%) are in the informal workforce; which offers little to no government support, provides inconsistent income and no social security. As a result, women are in an at risk position and further exposing them to inequities and gender inequalities.
ShopatMAP’s representative in Nepal, Sweta, has been on the ground working with various sectors to note the impacts on Nepal’s poverty stricken communities and to provide support through Moms Against Poverty’s various programs. “The pandemic has badly triggered the country's social and economic life,” Sweta said, adding that many people lost their jobs and were forced to close their businesses.
According to an Amnesty International report, it is estimated that 25,000 Nepalese leave the country annually in hopes of finding adequate paying jobs to support their families. The global lockdown and rising cases of the Covid-19 virus meant borders were closed and many
companies hiring Nepali workers abroad stopped the process. According to Sweta, fear related to contracting the virus or being stuck in another country without pay resulted in most workers being forced to stay home. ”Many migrant workers in the Gulf countries had to face problems, neither were they able to come back easily, nor was it easy for the [Nepal] government to bring them back,” she said. In many cases the migrant worker is the main provider for the family and not being able to go abroad for work has brought on major financial challenges for many across the country.
With the significant fall in traffic, artisans who work in the bigger more densely populated cities such as Kathmandu have been forced to return to their villages and produce their creations from home. ShopatMap has given some female artisans the opportunity to sell their handmade
creations to a larger market in hopes of recovering the financial losses they have endured during the pandemic and to establish long term partnerships when the Covid-19 pandemic is far behind us.
All the malas on ShopatMAP are made in Nepal by female artisans in the Kathmandu Valley. In addition to supporting the local disadvantaged artisans, proceeds from ShopatMap purchases will support MAP child poverty initiatives.
Similarly, the pandemic has severely impacted the learning abilities of Nepalese students. The lack of access to educational supplies and technology has been especially distressing for students who were at a disadvantage even prior to the pandemic.
“It [The pandemic] potentially widened the gaps between advantaged and disadvantaged children, urban and rural, in their equitable access to quality education,” Sweta said.
Out of the devastation brought on by the global pandemic, perhaps a benefit is the light that has been shined on the opportunities and challenges for technology-based education which could help advance the level and quality of the academics within the country. “Most of the options must incorporate innovative technologies (e.g., digital and mobile technologies) combined with traditional technologies such as radio and TV, in order to provide at least some form of educational continuity,” Sweta said. “As distance and online education is dependent on technological facilities, including internet and Wi-Fi, the discrepancies that exist in their availability are widening the gaps in access and quality of education.”
Image courtesy of Moms Against Poverty (MAP)
According to a UNICEF 2018-2022 action plan, over the last 20 years, Nepal’s net school enrollment rate has risen to 97 per cent (2015/2016 academic year). However, the predictions of the action plan were prior to the global pandemic. A recent UNESCO study suggests that as of the end of July 2021, more than 8.7 million learners across Nepal have been affected since the beginning of the pandemic. At the start of the outbreak, schools immediately closed down and looked to a range of options for distance learning.
While the pandemic has raised awareness about the lack of and quality of education particularly in some of Nepal’s disadvantaged communities, organizations such as The World Bank are raising awareness and providing funds to aid in the strengthening of the education sector.
The global pandemic has tragically set back the clock on many of the advancements in education and gender equality and it will likely be a long road to recovering from the damages.
Closing the gap between the haves and the have nots, requires prioritizing income stability particularly for women and establishing viable and lasting solutions to ensure quality education is accessible for all.
Image courtesy of Moms Against Poverty (MAP)
In 2020 MAP mobilized in collaboration with Sunsar Maya, providing food and hygiene products to impoverished families and an orphanage. Together they helped over 1,600 individuals. “Families remained with zero balance and those who lost their job/work got full food support till the last hour,” Sweta said. “Children were provided with learning packets, nutritional meals, and vitamin supplements.” This year, MAP is supporting the expansion of Nepal’s education programs with the mission to empower children to forge a better future for themselves.By Hoda Emam