Lockdown hits working women in valley

Kathmandu, April 13

The lockdown in the country has hit almost every sector, including small women entrepreneurs who have been earning their daily bread for the family. While big industrialists are frequently holding discussions with the government and pressurising the authorities for relief packages, the women who own small businesses through their own investment are in trouble at the moment.

Sita Gahatraj from Ramechhap has been running a tailoring shop at Nakhipot, Lalitpur along with her younger sister. “Normally March and April are months when many parties are held and we get many customers who come to sew new clothes,” she said. “However, this year due to the coronavirus everything is closed, along with our business.”

She further added, “Even during the peak season I had very less work compared to the same period in the previous years.”

According to Gahatraj, at the moment she is only receiving minor works like darning torn clothes. “Police do not allow us to open the shop, so we are doing small darning works of our neighbours only,” she said.

“Since there is no earning, I haven’t been able to send any money home at present and I too cannot travel home due to the lockdown.”

She mentions that her family, including her parents and younger sister, depend on her earnings for their livelihood.

“I don’t have the luxury of going home even after the lockdown is withdrawn as I have to work,” she said. “The major problem now is that I am sitting here earning nothing, but I have to pay the rent for my shop and room. Kathmandu has become very expensive for me now,” said Gahatraj.

Similarly, Gita Dangol who also owns a tailoring shop at Lagan, Kathmandu is in trouble due to the lockdown. “Just prior to the lockdown I was in a rush to complete orders that were placed for wedding and sacred thread ceremony (bratabandha) parties,” she said, adding, “But now I am receiving calls from my clients not to make the dresses.

Moreover, people whose dresses had already been prepared are also not able to visit the shop to take delivery of their clothes.”

Along with earning a living for her family, Dangol has been providing employment to two other women in her shop. She mentioned that on normal days she receives around 10 to 15 orders a day and during festivals and wedding season she gets around 25 orders per day. “But now due to the coronavirus and subsequent lockdown there is no earning and I am worried how I am going to pay my room and shop rent,” she said.

Even though women like her have been facing financial problems right now, Dangol says that she does not expect any kind of relief package from the government.

“Such relief packages are for the big businesses only. People like us have to survive on our own.”

Meanwhile, Sharada Rijal, immediate past president of the Federation of Women Entrepreneurs Association of Nepal (FWEAN), said that the big industrialists have overshadowed small business holders, particularly women entrepreneurs.

“There are lots of women entrepreneurs in the country who are doing business on a small scale and earning for their family,” she said, “And their issues have not been raised yet. Both the government and industrialists are more focused on big investors only.”

According to Rijal, the government must bring different kinds of packages that can address the issues of such small women entrepreneurs whose daily survival has been affected and their investment is at risk due to the lockdown.

She informed that there are around 500,000 Nepali women entrepreneurs — both big investors and small investors — in the country at the moment. Meanwhile, the Economic Census 2018 has also revealed that there were 923,356 firms across the country, of which 247,880 are owned by women.

A version of this article appears in e-paper on April 14, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.