It had already been an emotional and heartwarming morning. The Nepali people in the village of Ghushel had welcomed us so warmly, and we had learned so much about the work that Women’s Bank was doing in this and other rural areas throughout Nepal. As we learned more about the loans provided to support women entrepreneurs, our Founder and CEO, Mirjam, had one big question. “So, what does a business in this area actually look like?” We were about to go see for ourselves.
We followed our guide on a 15 minute hike through the hilly farm fields, waving to curious onlookers as we walked. We were on our way to visit one of the women who had taken the Women’s Bank loan. As we arrived, our guide pulled back a heavy barn door to reveal almost 30 buffalo, a huge herd for a farm in that region. After a quick hello to the buffalo (especially the adorable calves) we rounded the corner to the home of Radhika, the boss-lady in charge of it all.
We were greeted by Radhika herself, as well as her mother-in-law, who lived in their home and helped with the running of the farm. Her mother-in-law was a joyful, bubbly woman who couldn’t contain her excitement of our arrival. Radhika herself was kind and welcoming, though noticeably more reserved. But as we sat down with her to ask her some questions about her experience with the cooperative and how far she had come, we all felt the atmosphere shift around her as a sense of pride and accomplishment settled on her face.
Radhika told us about how she took the loan and purchased only two buffalo. She explained that they are expensive animals and require a lot of work to care for them. She would sell milk daily to produce enough money to feed her family, begin paying back the loan, and invest a little back into the business. She later began breeding the buffalo, which not only led to more milk production but enabled her to sell off a few of the animals for a great profit. Within a few years, her two-buffalo start up was a thriving farm that even employed two others outside of their family. When we asked how it felt to be able to provide work for someone else, the smile on her face said it all.
Throughout the day we saw other examples of women who had taken the loan to start farms, produce jewellery, and other endeavours. And what we saw was how industrious and resilient these women truly were. The loan provided was only enough to get started, and it was a small start at that. But the sense of ownership and empowerment it gave stirred up something within these women that led them to take that small start and turn it into something spectacular.
On our very bumpy drive back to Kathmandu we couldn’t stop talking about how amazed we were by these women who were thriving in their communities and truly shifting cultural paradigms. We felt an overwhelming sense of pride to be able to take part in work that Women’s Bank is doing, and knew our customers would share in that feeling with the purchase of each and every Kaiko treasure.