Nepalese women show a head for business | india | Hindustan Times
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Nepalese women show a head for business

Nepalese women, despite the high illiteracy rate, social and religious taboos and deprivation of ancestral property rights, are becoming a force to reckon with as entrepreneurs in the small and cottage industries sector.

india Updated: Mar 08, 2003 19:43 IST

"There are two recognised forces in Nepal," wrote a visitor to the Himalayan kingdom. "The king and its women."

Nepalese women, despite the high illiteracy rate, social and religious taboos and deprivation of ancestral property rights, are becoming a force to reckon with as entrepreneurs in the small and cottage industries sector.

Women, who comprise 50.65 percent of the population, are running handicraft businesses, beauty parlours, cooperatives, hotels and trekking agencies in increasingly large numbers.

The number increased substantially after the 1970s, with nearly 7,000 women entrepreneurs registering themselves with the Federation of Cottage and Small Industries and the Women Entrepreneurs' Association Nepal (WEAN).

According to the federation's figures, over 6,500 women work in small manufacturing industries and 20,000 as labourers. But their number is negligible in large-scale ndustries.

Leela Mani Paudel, director general of the Department of Cottage and Small Industries Development, attributes that to a lack of access to investment capital and limited credit facilities.

Santi Chadha, president of WEAN, says women shy away from bigger risks because of lack of training and information. Discriminating legal provisions are also a big deterrent.

Sarala Rani Raunyar started a tourist resort that was registered under her name in the industry ministry. However, the income tax office in Kathmandu refused to give her a registration certificate.

They quoted the Income Tax Act that says in case of a joint income of husband and wife, the enterprise can be registered in the husband's name alone.

However, such discriminations haven't stopped the determined ones from coming up on top.

Laxmi's is a success story, having become a successful exporter of buttons and handicrafts from being a van driver.

The National Planning Commission hopes the 10th plan, which focuses on gender equality and deprived groups, will give a fillip to women entrepreneurs with the help of the National Women's Commission.

The Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industries says it will demand specific policies for small and cottage industries, especially for women entrepreneurs.