IWD 2016: Women in Social Enterprise

About the blogger: Born in Brunei, Bimala (Shrestha) Pokharel’s lives in Nepal and is the inspiration behind the Higher Ground social enterprises.  We are delighted to welcome Bimala as a guest blogger for our International Women’s Day blog series. In this post shares with us her experiences of being a women entrepreneur and the some challenges facing women in Nepal.  

In 1998, I had the opportunity to travel to Kenya to study for a month. During that time, I felt a strong calling to work with women and young people in Nepal by engaging them in micro-enterprises. My desire was to help women, young people and children at risk. In 2006, the dream became reality and the Higher Ground Social Enterprise was formed. Higher Ground is driven by a vision to see a just and transformed society where all people can live in dignity. Our mission is to restore the lives of individuals at risk of exploitation, human trafficking and social injustice through awareness, raising counselling and socio-economic empowerment.

Currently, Higher Ground Bakery and Craft enterprises provide sustainable jobs to 30 women and young people. The profits from these businesses  support 7 full time staff in our community development organisation who work to prevent human trafficking, a huge problem in Nepal. NGOs estimate that 10,000 to 15,000 Nepali women and girls are trafficked to India annually, while 7,500 children are trafficked domestically for commercial sexual exploitation In addition, Higher Ground is committed to promoting awareness of human rights issues, providing training in health and parenting and skills development. Through our work we offer, scholarships for at risk children and young people, counselling victims of abuse, trafficking and trauma and a safe-home for women transitioning out of abusive or vulnerable situations.

On a very basic level, Higher Ground Nepal exists to combat poverty. I believe that the fight against poverty begins by educating, empowering and supporting at-risk women and young people. Through empowerment, those that have been marginalized can be transformed to walk on higher ground, live with dignity, and become leaders in their communities. Furthermore, I believe that if we continue to lead people to freedom in the love of Christ, they will eventually lead the way for others.

As a woman in enterprise I have encountered a number of physical challenges including a shortage of raw materials, high inflation and bureaucracy. Nepal’s infrastructure is weak and businesses often face issues like political instability, blockades, strikes, fuel crisis, water shortages and power cuts. Cultural challenges also exist. In Nepal, women are treated as second class citizens and are often pressured to look after their households, husband and in laws. Only men have the freedom to focus on their careers. Unfortunately, women are deprived of economic independence and therefore prevented from following dreams to start their own ventures. Poor access to finance, gender bias and lack of property ownership makes it difficult for women to get loans from the bank and discourages them to start their own enterprises.

So on International Women’s Day do pray for and support women in enterprise, particularly those who living in developing countries. For more information on the work on Higher Ground Enterprises and to read more about Bimala’s story visit http://higherground.com.np/hg/




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