The things that build up
The sisters Srijana and Srishti Jayana launched a start-up
for macramé products in Bhaktapur in the midst of the pandemic.
Languages: Besides the official language Nepali, there are about 80 different languages and dialects. Nepali is derived from Sanskrit and is spoken by about 60% of the population.
Population: approx. 28 million
Did you know?
If there is one thing we are (re)learning in the pandemic, it is the importance to plan ahead. The only way to prevent the exponential spread of the virus is to plan both flexibly and foresightedly. Anyone who wants to visit their grandparents today should ideally have spent the last 14 days in quarantine to decrease the risk of infection. But are we looking with the same foresight at the time after the pandemic? Who are the people who are already thinking boldly ahead and initiating long-term projects?
Two people who have this prospicience are Srijana (23) and Srishti (25) Jayana. The two sisters have founded a macramé start-up in the midst of the pandemic to empower women in Nepal. We spoke with Srishti about yoga during the lockdown, the multiple burdens she faces as a founder and her dreams for the future.
An interview with Srishti Jayana
Srishti, you work at the Nepalese NGO Tewa and are pursuing a master’s degree in Gender Studies. What was an ordinary day like before the current Corona pandemic?
On a usual day, I go straight to the office after the lecture in the morning. In Nepal, master’s programs are part-time, which means they take place either in the morning between 6:30 am and 9 am, or in the afternoon starting at 4 pm. After work at around 5 pm, I usually spend the evenings with colleagues or friends. Most weeks, this was my daily routine.
The pandemic affects women in Nepal differently than men. In global recessions such as the economic crisis in 2008, men were more afflicted than women as they tend to work in industries (e.g. construction and manufacturing) that are impacted by standard economic downturns. Yet the COVID-19 crisis is hitting all sectors.1
According to the 2018 National Labor Survey, 90.45 percent of employed women in Nepal engage in informal employment and are more likely to work in sectors that are less digital, such as tourism, hospitality, and wholesale and retail trade.2
The three-month lockdown and its economic impact have therefore hit women particularly hard. The self-employed, domestic workers, and employees in temporary employment agencies are experiencing the most severe effects of the pandemic. School and daycare closures have placed an additional burden on working mothers.
Gender wage gaps exacerbate inequality. Not only do women lose their jobs more often in the pandemic and have more responsibilities at home, but they are also usually paid less in the first place. In Nepal, for every 100 rupees, a man can spend on daily necessities during this crisis, women can only spend 70 rupees.1
What has changed since the pandemic?
In the initial days of the pandemic and during the lockdown from March to June, university courses were completely stopped and only resumed after six months. I lost an entire semester to the pandemic. Despite this, I worked from home during the lockdown. The hours were more flexible and I had more time to exercise, do yoga, cook, or read. I enjoyed having more time for myself since it usually takes me an hour each way to get to the university or the office. Also, I am currently able to be in touch with people who always had full schedules and were too busy to meet.
What are you worried about right now? Is there anything you’re missing?
The pandemic itself is a stressor and worries me a lot. I greatly miss meeting people, going to public places or restaurants, and I miss face-to-face communication. However, I think the pandemic is also a great time to reflect on yourself and do things that have built up inside of you.
Did you realize any ideas that you had in mind over the last few years?
Four months ago my sister and I started a start-up for macramé products. We call ourselves Macramé Laced and we mainly create home decorations. But besides lampshades and wall hangings we also knot purses or coasters – everything is handmade by ourselves. During the lockdown between March and June, it was at times, difficult to organize the material we needed, and even now, sourcing materials is still challenging.
According to the 2018 Census, women own one-third of businesses in Nepal.5 Nevertheless, women still face additional challenges, especially when it comes to raising finance as they often do not own property. However, this is a necessary condition to be granted bank credit. Hence the lack of ownership impedes women to benefit from government incentives on loans. According to a report in the Kathmandu Times, it has also been found that most banks reject applications even from profitable businesses run by women.6
The reason why women are less likely to own property has historic roots: For a long time, women in Nepal were not legally entitled to own property. Civil and criminal law in Nepal is summarized in the ‚Muluki Ain‘, a code dating back to 1853. By 2002, over 96 discriminatory laws existed in the Muluki Ain, which was declared unconstitutional in 2002 with the ratification of CEDAW. The government introduced tax breaks of up to 30 percent on land registration if the land and property rights were transferred to women. But to this day, the government guidelines are hardly known among the population.
Although the number of women owning land has almost doubled from 2011 (10.17 percent) to 2016 (19.17 percent), over 40 percent of women in the agricultural sector work as employees and have to endure low wages and exploitation in addition to difficult working conditions.7, 8
How did Macramé Laced get started and how did you find buyers?
We are an online business and work exclusively through the internet. In the early days, we contacted our personal networks of friends and relatives who were interested in macramé products. After some time, we approached potential macramé sellers to reach a larger audience. Nevertheless, our main focus has always been on contacting interested customers via Instagram. Therefore, we also plan to use influencers in the near future to reach more people. Now we have broadened our platforms via Facebook and our website.
What are current challenges you are facing?
It is difficult to maintain a start-up when you’re a student and working full time, but the requests and feedback we receive from our customers motivate us. People come to us with their desired designs for different products, and we as manufacturers try our best to implement their ideas into products. So far, our customers love all the products we have made. This encourages us to try new designs and work on new projects.
The next challenge is to expand the circle of interested parties and potential customers. As far as we know, macramé products are becoming more and more popular in Nepal and are becoming more widespread in the market. But the sales figures are not yet as high as expected.
Vulnerability is generally defined as the diminished ability of an individual or group to „anticipate, cope with, resist, and recover“9 from the effects of a natural or human-made hazard. Vulnerability is caused by a lack of access to resources that would enable someone to cope with hazardous events – such as income, education, health, and social networks. This access may be gendered in the sense that women tend to have fewer assets than men. In addition, vulnerability is also linked to a certain understanding of social roles. Bradshaw and Fordham state that women have to bear a “triple burden”9. They use the metaphor of juggling to illustrate the challenges connected therewith. Women must fulfill a reproductive role through childbearing and childcare, and simultaneously take on a productive role, through employment and/or domestic work. In addition, women often perform an administrative role in the community, which is voluntary and unpaid. Juggling these different roles means that women are often more mentally or physically tired and sick than men.9
Do you have a post-Corona utopia?
We haven’t thought that much about our future. We are still taking small steps and learning from what we are currently doing. The plan for the coming days is to collaborate with other local businesses and expand our product line.
Our vision is that Macrame Laced is not just a profit-making business. Rather, in the long-term, we would like to support those who really need help. For example, we thought about training women from my area so that they can join the business and have a source of income. On special occasions, we could also use the profit generated for charity. Our goal is to empower women with Macramé Laced.
Why the pandemic is hitting women harder around the world
Not only in Nepal, but also around the world, women are more severely affected by the pandemic. They make up 70% of employees in the social and health sector and are therefore exposed to a higher risk of infection.10
40 million women worldwide work in informal employment. Because of the nature of this work, women are less likely to have job protection and paid sick leave or other workers‘ rights.11
Furthermore, women perform 76.2 percent of the total care work performed worldwide. On average, women spend 3.2 times more „time“ on unpaid care work than men: 4 hours and 25 minutes per day, compared to 1 hour and 23 minutes for men. In no country in the world do men and women perform the same proportion of unpaid care work.12 Furthermore, quarantine measures increase the workload for caring for children, the sick, and the elderly, as well as for domestic work.
- UNDP – United Nations Development Programme (2020): Rapid Assessment of socio-economic impact of Covid-19 in Nepal. Retrieved from: https://www.np.undp.org/content/nepal/en/home/library/rapid-assessment-of-socio-economic-impact.html Last accessed on 27.12.2020.
- NPL – National Planning Commission Central Bureau of Statistics (2019): Report on the Nepal Labour Force Survey. Retrieved from : https://cbs.gov.np/wp-content/upLoads/2019/05/Nepal-Labour-Force-Survey-2017_18-Report.pdf Last accessed on 05.12.2020.
- Tewa (2018): Yearly Report Learning, Monitoring & Evaluation 2016/2017. Grant Impact Assessment with Rights-Based Approach, Feminist Principles, and Appreciative Inquiry. Retrieved from: http://www.tewa.org.np/publications/707LME%202016-017%20report.pdf Last accessed on 27.12.2020.
- SRPC – Shadow Report Preparation Committee (2018): Shadow report on the sixth periodic report of Nepal on CEDAW. Retrieved from: http://fwld.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Shadow-Report-on-Sixth-Periodic-Report-of-Nepal-on-CEDAW-2018.pdf Last accessed on 07.12.2020.
- NPL – National Planning Commission Central Bureau of Statistics (2019): Report on the Nepal Labour Force Survey. Retrieved from: https://cbs.gov.np/wp-content/upLoads/2019/05/Nepal-Labour-Force-Survey-2017_18-Report.pdf Last accessed on 05.12.2020.
- Aryal, A. (2020): Covid-19 stops rising women entrepreneurs in their tracks. Retrieved from: https://kathmandupost.com/money/2020/09/06/covid-19-stops-rising-women-entrepreneurs-in-their-tracks Last accessed on 05.12.2020.
- Rawal, S. et al.(2016): Legislative Provisions regulating Women’s access and ownership of Land and Property in Nepal. Retrieved from:https://publications.iom.int/system/files/pdf/legislative_provisions_nepal.pdf Last accessed on 21.12.2020
- NPL – National Planning Commission (2016): Post Disaster Needs Assessment. Vol. B: Sector reports (Bericht), Kath- mandu: National Planning Commission. Retrieved from: https://www.npc.gov.np/images/category/PDNA_volume_BFinalVersion.pdf Last accessed on 21.12.2020
- Bradshaw, S., Fordham, M. (2013): Women, Girls and Disasters. A review for DFID. Retrieved from: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/844489/withdrawn-women-girls-disasters.pdf Last accessed on 05.12.2020.
- Rivera, C. et al. (2020): Gender inequality and the Covid-19 crisis: A human development perspective. Retrieved from: http://hdr.undp.org/en/content/gender-inequality-and-covid-19-crisis-human-development-perspective. Last accessed on 05.12.2020.
- ILO – International Labour Organization (2018): Care work and care jobs for the future of decent work. Retrieved from: https://www.voced.edu.au/content/ngv:80132 Last accessed on 05.12.20
- ILO – International Labour Organization (2019): The Unpaid Care Work and the Labour Market. An analysis of time use data based on the latest World Compilation of Time-use Surveys. Retrieved from: https://www.ilo.org/gender/Informationresources/Publications/WCMS_732791/lang–en/index.htm Last accessed on 06.12.2020.
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