Realising Rita-the establishment of an entrepreneurPublished: Mar 7, 2022 Reading time: 6 minutes
On a busy street in Rautahat, Nepal, there is a cosmetics shop owned by 22-year-old young woman named Rita Mandal. Rita is busy dealing with her customers; with one hand, she is taking out packages, and with the other, she demonstrates the products. Rita sells beauty products, cosmetics, and provides beauty salon services in her shop. Rita has run this business for six months now. Every day she leaves her home with her husband to open the shop at 9 am. It takes around 10 minutes by bike to reach the shop, where they part as he continues to his furniture store.
The cosmetics store is the first time Rita has run a business. As a child, Rita's family finances were never great, and the family lived on the daily wages earned by her father and brother. Rita dropped out of school because her parents couldn't support her further studies. Rita explains, "My parents supported me until class six. Though I was very much interested in studying, they could not afford to continue my studies". After dropping out of school, she was married off at 12 years of age.
Rita says, "I was young, and after marriage, I came to a family of 12. I didn't know many things, but the fear of my in-laws made me learn everything quickly, though they never did or said anything to me. Then, slowly I started to forget whatever I learnt at school." In southern Nepal, most girls are married as minors. As a result, they are never provided with opportunities and access to education, and they acquire zero bargaining power in the household. Additionally, they often have little or no literacy and numeracy skills and lack information about their rights, equality, sexuality, contraception, and life skills.
People in Need initiated the five-year Project Aarambha - Leave No Girl Behind, to address these shortcomings. This project is supported by the UK Aid funded Girls’ Education Challenge (GEC), with local partners Aasaman Nepal and Social Organization District Coordination Committee (SODCC). This project began in 2018. It aims to improve the prospects of adolescent girls aged between 10-19 years who did not finish primary schooling. The project teaches literacy, numeracy and life skills, and community mobilization for social transformation in Bara and Rautahat districts.
Interest to continue her education
When in 2019, Rita heard about the education program in her village, she showed interest to study with her husband and requested permission from her mother-in-law. Rita shares, "I told my mother-in-law about the program and showed my interest in enrolling. At first, my mother-in-law was against the idea, but I managed to persuade her and I enrolled in the education program."
Besides literacy and numeracy sessions, Rita learned about basic life skills, including child rights, sexual and reproductive health and rights, personal safety, social skills, basic financial management & business planning and other available services in the community, especially during times of crisis like disasters or COVID-19 pandemic. "When I spent nine months in the Community Learning Center (CLC), I realized that child/early marriage should not be done. If I had known it earlier, I would not have married. In the future, I will not let it happen to my children, and I won't allow others to do the same".
Since its inception, the Aarambha project has supported 6,721 adolescent girls, just like Rita, in Bara and Rautahat districts. Most of these girls are either married or at heightened risk of early marriage, with no history of access to education.
Rita's journey toward entrepreneurship
Because of Rita's age & family responsibilities, she was not keen to return to school. Therefore, after completing the informal education, she chose to receive a month-long beautician training course as part of the project's Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) program. Rita was taught how to do facials, manicures, pedicures, hair cutting, oil massages, henna painting/tattooing, and waxing. Rita received NPR 15,000/- from the project to support her start-up. In addition, her husband took some loans to support her business. "By selling the products and providing beauty services, I earn NPR. 4000 to 5000 on a daily basis, and make a profit of NPR. 500 to 700 per day. During the Chhath festival this year, I made NPR 50,000/- in 9 days. The shops make a decent profit during festivals and weddings”.
Besides selling cosmetics and running the parlor alone, she also goes to India to buy supplies for her store. Rita keeps detailed accounts of her expenses and has already paid half of the loan taken to start the business. "Thanks to the project, I learned about calculations and accounting. I can keep track of expenses as well as profits. With the profit, I have added more products to the store. I am proud to be an entrepreneur now."
Usually, in Terai- the southern plains of Nepal, girls and young women are not allowed to go out of their house or markets and are bound to do household chores. Girls from an early age must take care of their younger siblings, help their mothers in the kitchen, take cattle for grazing, and fetch water. Rita's achievement has made a positive statement in her community that girls provided with education and skill can be independent and successful.
Rita's engagement in the Aarambha project not only provided her with basic education, practical skills, and livelihood support through micro-entrepreneurship opportunities. The project also opened doors to the future possibilities where Rita can independently run her own business and make her own life decisions.
Besides beautician training, the girls we support are training in tailoring, hand embroidery, animal husbandry, bangal production, incense production, bead necklace making, soap/detergent powder production, and start and improve your business opportunity (SIYB). So far, 1081 girls have completed TVET training and started their own business, whereas 474 girls are enrolled in various training programmes.
The success of Rita and the other girls enrolled in Aarambha project has been made possible by the Girls' Education Challenge which is funded by UK Aid from the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development office. GEC is the world's largest fund dedicated to girls' education. The fund supports over a million marginalized girls in the poorest countries, including girls with disabilities or who are at risk of being left behind through a lack of quality education and training.