Courage is not only about taking the path; it is about taking the first step, a step to become independent, liberated, and resilient. Similar is the case for 30-year-old Neelam Sada, who took her first courageous step by opening her own business despite the fear and uncertainty that came on her way when she made this choice. She strives to live a simple life with her two beautiful children and her 32-year-old husband Raj Kumar Sada in a small house in the Terai Region of Saptari District. Yet Neelam had to go through her struggles to live the life she truly desires.
Neelam and her family belong to a Musahar community, making her family’s life difficult. Musahar is a Dalit community of Terai who reside mainly in the government land and sustain their life by working as wage labor. Neelam’s husband worked as a trained mason and was the sole breadwinner for the family before Neelam started her own business. In addition, they are landless and reside on public land. Given the social construct underscored prominently by discrimination and inequality, Neelam and her family had to continuously fight for their fundamental rights like land, shelter, employment, education for children, and above all, honor and dignity. Belonging to a marginalized social group and topped with being an uneducated woman has made Neelam feel vulnerable throughout her life.
Despite the social and financial adversities Neelam and her family had to deal with, life had better plan for them. The 14 days of financial literacy training and safe shelter training provided by Habitat Nepal with the support of Jersey Overseas Aid brought the beacon of light in Neelam and her family’s life. The primary objective of the training is to help vulnerable and marginalized women develop their skills, knowledge, and capability in financial literacy and safe shelter. This training became a pivotal time in Neelam’s life, which capacitated her to start her own business.
Sharing how impactful the training has proven to become, Neelam, with joyful eyes, shared that the financial literacy training has been a life-changing opportunity for her and her family. She also added that the skills received from the training have allowed her to feel confident and independent as she is confident about running her own business and contributing to her family’s income along with her husband. After the training, Neelam decided to borrow NPR. 3,500 (NZD 42) from her friends and invested NPR.1500 (NZD 18) of her own money to open a grocery shop. Currently, she earns NPR.600-700 (NZD 7-8) per day, allowing Neelam to support her family.
Neelam is a member of a women’s microfinance group. She plans to take a loan of NPR 20,000 (NZD 244) to expand her business. With a confident voice, she shares, “I had never imagined I would have ever been able to start my own business considering I belong to a marginalized community. Habitat has provided me with the skills and support to stand as an independent and confident woman today. I know that this is just the first step towards the beautiful future that awaits my family and me.”
The skill-based training has helped women like Neelam be financially independent and has allowed them to be strong, confident, and empowered, contributing equally today for a sustainable tomorrow. Neelam’s story has also helped set an example for other women to take their bold first step towards the brighter future they too can have.
Story from Habitat for Humanity Nepal, Shiva Hari Devkota and Sefina Joshi
(Photos by Shiv Lal Sharma)