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  • Wendy McElvain

Today, A Future Began!

Today is a monumental day for 12 Kavresthali women! Today these beautiful, talented, inspiring, creative and empowered women decided to release a trapped burden of being under-valued due to the marginalized community they live in, along with challenging the social and cultural barriers that they face every day. Today they started a business. They call themselves Creative Women’s Jewelry!

In a quaint village just 3 km north of Kathmandu, in the hills of Shivapuri National Park, sit 11 women and their trainer on the cold cement floor, practicing making bright, and sparkly necklaces that consist of Nepali festival colors, red, green and yellow. Laughing, joking, and supporting one another, these women meet 3 times a week for 2 hours at a time, to maintain their jewelry making practice. Up until now, the only purpose for these necklaces were the sheer thrill and joy of making them!

At first glance, I had no idea what to do with these necklaces. It wasn’t Christmas, and the jewelry all looked like necklaces that one would wear to a fancy Christmas or New Year’s Eve party, but it was only May. I wondered if perhaps they should incorporate different colors, like blue or purple, black or white, or different shaped beads, or even different styles and designs. Before I knew it, in my head I was changing everything that made these women happy and excited. I truly was baffled at what to do.

Walking 30 sweaty, dust filled minutes back to my homestead, I pondered why I was in Nepal in the first place. Was it to change the ways of an established centuries-old culture into “the American Dream”, which, by the way, I’m yet to discover myself, or to walk in their rock covered dirt roads and help them where they are, right here in Kavresthali! The answer was obvious, but not that simple! I had to stop thinking, with my head and start watching and listening with my heart to the Nepali people and culture.

Walking through the locals shopping area of Assan (a market name here in Nepal), neighboring my weekend hangout of Thamel, I was taken aback by store after jewelry store with red, green and yellow beads and necklaces, which were endless. Most of the women shopping were all wearing those same colors. At a VIN meeting, I displayed the necklace samples, and within a few minutes, I was swarmed with women who were giddy with excitement over the necklaces. I took another look at the necklaces in speechless astonishment! Clearly, I was missing a simple cultural pleasure!

In the days to come, I would learn that the Nepali culture was rich with festivals. It seemed as if they were every other day, and every other weekend. Nepali’s celebrate the gods in various ways, and there are lots of them to commemorate! April and May is wedding season, which means sometimes multiple times a day you would here the drums and trumpets of the wedding parades. When I first arrived I thought there was a football game going on, as the music sounded like a drum line with the local high school band playing. In traditional Nepali culture, wedding rings are not worn, however, these necklaces are the official necklace of the “married”. At all these festivals, women wore these bejeweled, sparkly necklaces, and in their everyday life. There was an energetic excitement centered on these pieces. They were a part of a long standing custom, a cultural commodity!

I took the festival necklaces to a shop in Assan, who were super excited to see their work! They, however, were only interested in the one strand necklaces, not with the really unique festive designs. Nevertheless, it was a business opportunity. As a result, the two groups have been put in touch with each other, in hopes that they can do business with one another. There are other shops, and more opportunities for these women, because they had the courage to step out of an age old comfort zone. And now, they can enjoy selling their festive native cultural necklaces to local Nepali’s, and make beautiful single strand necklaces to sell to the shops!

Which brings me back to today. Today is the day 12 women pledged to one another to start a business. Today is the day they committed to selling their dazzling jewelry at 10 festivals in the next two months. Today 12 women entrusted each other to better their lives, and to generate a sustainable income. Today 12 women became motivated and empowered. Today, they started a business, and their future began! And that’s something to celebrate!!

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