You never know what a chance encounter in a bar may bring. Jim was chatting to a Australian girl, Sheng Fe (I hope if I’ve spelt that correctly), when I sat down and joined them.
‘I bought this today,’ she said holding up a beautifully woven bag. ‘It was only 600 rupees and all the prices are fixed, so you know what you’ll pay rather than haggling and being ripped off.’
Until that point in the conversation Sheng could have been talking about one of many shops in Lakeside, Pokhara. But what she went on to explain was that the bag was from the Nepalese Women Skill Development Project (NWSDP) shop.
The NWSDP aims to help poor Nepalese women who are most in need. They could be from a variety of backgrounds, but they are primarily from the countryside and have been widowed, divorced, disabled or abused. NWSDP teaches women handicraft skills, such as material cutting, sewing, weaving, and dying, as well as business management and English. The idea is that the skills and the income from their work allows the women to become more self-reliant. After they have learnt the skills they are given jobs producing handicrafts, such as clothing, bags, pashminas and bed clothes.
I asked Sheng where we could find the shop.
‘It’s further along this road, just by the big tree,’ she said.
Today, Cath, Jim and I set out to find the shop. It was tucked down a little side street, by a very big tree. A woman was outside the front of the shop, weaving. Two more were at sewing machines. Hanging from the ceiling in the back were all the dyed multicoloured skeins of wool and cotton, just waiting to be made into something. As much of the produce as possible locally sourced, again to keep its production sustainable.
There were rows of bags of all shapes and sizes, very sturdily made; scarves of the most beautiful patterned silk and luxurious women’s pyjamas and dressing gowns. I could have bought many different items from the shop, but like Sheng, I settled on a small bag for now. I’m sure we will return again tomorrow…