All women have a story to tell…
When I met Tzering the production manager at Besuited, the ‘new’ factory we are working with to produce our dhaka collection, she was extremely happy to hear that we are three women running HTHT. ‘Women power, women power’ she said with a big smile!
Over many years as I've returned to work here in Nepal and have continued to learn about Nepali life and culture, it has become more and more apparent to me how hard it can be to live in a world ruled by tradition, ritual, religion and caste. As much as some of these also bring charm and beauty to Nepal, they can also cause a lot of difficulty and pain.
It is no accident that we have been working with and supporting mainly women workers at the Association for Craft Producers (ACP). Particularly in the many villages across Nepal, women can have a difficult upbringing and are usually married at a very young age. They are expected to raise large families and work extremely hard to provide for them. There is pressure to please their families so as to not damage their reputation, or become an outcast. Falling in love with a man from the ‘wrong’ caste can be fatal.
Here at HTHT, we come from a Western society and generation where we have no fear of speaking out loud, we can have relationships with whoever we want, have children without being married and without being judged for our decision. We have the freedom to pursue a career in almost anything we want and travel the world without worrying if we will be able to return home. Women for generations before us have fought for our rights and we continue this fight. We feel very lucky to live in a part of the world where all these things are possible for us.
Every woman in the world has the same mind – but sometimes it is hidden or suppressed and some women are raised not to speak out loud for fearing the consequences – or fearing for her life. Nobody can tell me, ‘They get use to it – and are happy to go along with it’. Maybe women are skilled at ‘getting on with it’ as they do not have a choice but it doesn’t mean that some of these things shouldn’t change, be brought to our awareness and we need to speak up about them.
I learned from the stories on this trip that the lives of some of the women here have been extremely tough. They can be quite vulnerable on their own which is why working in a safe environment, having a regular income and being independent is incredibly important and empowering for the woman who work for our producer groups, ACP and Besuited. The women who work there in leading roles, women like Meera, the founder of ACP or Srishti and Tzering who are our production managers, are women others can feel inspired and encouraged by; I certainly am.
I think we can all feel scared for being judged by what we do, the pressures of society, and those we put on ourselves. Are we doing the right thing? What will people think of me? Am I succeeding? It is not easy to break free from this and to do what we feel like without fearing other people’s opinions. At the end of the day we are all striving to live a happy life and we should not judge other people for what makes them happy. People all over the world deserve to be free from suffering. This requires us all to respect, love and be compassionate to each and every person, no matter where they come from or what they do.
We are also aware that many men face difficulties and challenges all over the world. Together we are stronger, to stand up to oppression, discrimination and injustice!