Shoes and the women

Biratnagar :

When she started her shoe-making business, no one — not even her relatives or her neighbours — treated Jamuna Rai well or supported her. Making shoes is considered the job of the so-called lower caste people in our society even today.

However, Rai of Aiyabari, Sanischare-1 kept on at it even though she feared that she

might be ostracised. Today she says that “the very people who used to think I was doing wrong are now praising me for being independent”.

Besides Rai, 12 other non-Dalit women have taken up the shoe-making business compelling the rest in their society and community to change their conservative way of thinking and attitude.

“The very relatives who used to tell us to quit now congratulate us,” says 24-year-old Phul

Maya Adhikari.

“We are not stealing from anyone but are doing an honest day’s work. What is wrong in it?” she asks, proudly adding, “I am able to feed my family.”

Other women who are into shoe-making are Pabitra Rajbanshi of Sanischare, Padma Ale, Itahari, Shova Rai, Bina Roka of Itahari.

These women started making shoes around eight months ago after receiving a six-month training from the Women Development Unit Office (WDUO), Pathari. Chief of WDUO, Chandra Kala Subba said four single women, one conflict-hit and eight poor and helpless women were given the training. “The women have already accumulated wealth worth Rs 4 lakh from their business of making shoes,” said Subba.

She added that their success had proved that shoe-making is not the work set aside for

the Dalits.

The shoes and sandals made by these women in a rented room are sold through the Women Skill Development Committee.

“A showroom has been opened to sell the shoes made by these women,” said Jyoti Neupane, member of the committee.

Thanks to the training and the belief that these women had in themselves, they are now examples to people and women in particular in their society.

Rai, a widow, is now able to comfortably look after her three children and mother-in-law. Similarly, Phul Maya, whose husband has remarried, has finally become independent.