Sudha Basnet reuses old newspapers and scrap — wrappers and cloth — to make pencils in order to help women empower themselves

Kathmandu

We read the newspaper today and tomorrow it is of no use except maybe to wrap something or in cleaning around the house. We usually wait for the men who shout: ‘Khali sisi, purano kaagaz (Empty bottles, old papers)’ to get rid of the old newspapers. This is the end of newspapers for many of us. But not for Sudha Basnet, Founder Chairperson of Women’s Dreams Beauty and Multi Service, Baluwatar, who has been reusing old newspapers to make pencils and earning quite a handsome income at same time and also giving employment to women.

Basnet is not only reusing newspapers but also pieces of cloth, wrappers of biscuits and noodles in making pencils, baskets, cushions, dustbins, among others. She is also working with Damberkumari Kapada — a kind of soft traditional clothing material — making vests, shawls, cushion covers, among others.

Paper pencils

There are varieties of colourful pencils on the tables inside Basnet’s office at Baluwatar. There is a machine on the side to roll paper into a cylindrical shape to give it the form of a pencil. Some of these pencils are just rolled, some are sharpened, and some are packed and ready to be delivered. While many paper pen stands are filled with such paper pencils, there are numerous other colourful pencils on the table. “These paper pencils are handmade,” explains Basnet. The machine is used in rolling, cutting and drying. “But 80 per cent of the work is done by hand,” she adds.

The making of pencils

Basnet has been able to empower women by developing skills and helping them earn so that they are not dependent economically on anyone else. Currently 55 women are working with her. The idea of reusing materials was not only to develop the status of women. It was also to utilise the materials which were being wasted. Millions of trees are cut down worldwide to make pencils and making pencils from newspapers would help preserve trees. “This is why we have been doing a little from our side to save trees,” she added.

Besides that they have also been reusing wrappers of biscuits and noodles to make dustbins, file folders. “I feel reusing such materials help in protecting the environment,” she adds.

However, the April 25, 2015 earthquake destroyed their machine in Sitapaila and the production is halted there. The team has been working on a small machine in Baluwatar hoping to make a change in the life of women while preserving nature.