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In Nepal’s Palpa, a ‘Dalit’ woman entrepreneur’s journey towards prosperity

Her husband was an alcoholic. Her family was looked down upon as ‘dalit’, and as the only bread winner for the family, she had to work on someone else’s farm for long hours, just to eke out a living.

This was the story of Rupa Hitanga, a mother of two who lives in Madan Pokhara, Palpa in western Nepal. This was the story of the Hitangas that runs for generations.

The characters of the story remain the same, but Rupa’s entrepreneurial spirit and the desire for a better life has changed the course of the plot.

palpaentrepreneur
Until eight years ago, Rupa worked the fields of her neighbours. Her daily wage was barely enough to feed her family. After a grueling day, she would come home to a drunk husband, who would taunt her and mistreat her.

“I felt discriminated in my own community,” shares Rupa. “I think it was because we were from an impoverished dalit family, and also my husband was alcoholic,” Rupa remembers.

“I think it was because we were from an impoverished dalit family, and also my husband was alcoholic”

“But I think this was an experience that prompted me to do something to change my life,” she explains. As time passed, Rupa gave birth to a daughter. Despite the added responsibility, her husband did not give up drinking.

That’s when she decided that it was time to take control of her own life. “I borrowed Rs 1,000 from the local aama samuha (mother’s group) and decided to start a goat farm,” she says.

Soon after that she gave birth to her second child, this time a boy. Unfortunately, even the arrival of second child in the family could not maker her husband mend ways, as she had expected.

Rupa 2 (1)

With the addition of a family member, her expenses spiralled out of control, and the goat farm was no longer enough.

“In order to provide for the family, I thought of starting a vegetable farm where I could grow seasonal and off-seasonal vegetables.”

This time she dreamt bigger. She took a loan of Rs 20,000 from the same group and rented a plot of land.

This time she dreamt bigger. She took a loan of Rs 20,000 from the same group and rented a plot of land. Her vegetable farm became operational in a few weeks.

She now earns Rs 70,000 a month. The sum may sound small for someone in Kathmandu, but in rural areas, it is enough to live a decent life. The farm has given her courage to dream bigger in the future.

With the success of her vegetable farm, Rupa has become a source of inspiration for other women in her community. Following in her footsteps, many women in her community utilise their free time growing vegetables.

“Looking at other people follow in my footsteps adds to my happiness,” she explains.

It was only a matter of time before her husband Tara realised that he was treading the wrong path. He not only gave up drinking, but also started helping his wife with the farm work. He is now in Qatar, working there to give his children a brighter future.

“Looking at other people follow in my footsteps adds to my happiness,” she explains.

Steadily, the financial condition of their family is improving. The produce from their farms is finding a market in Palpa’s Tansen Bazaar. These days, people come all the way to their farm to buy their produce.

With income from the farm, Rita supports her family and spares some cash for the the rainy days. Adding some money to her husband’s income, Rupa recently bought a piece of land in Butwal.

She sends both her children to good schools. Recently, Rita participated in the Daayitwa Women Enterprise Challenge organised by Daaytiwa. She was selected as one of the Top 40 Women Entrepreneurs.

The author is associated with Daayitwa.

Translated by Astha Shrestha Joshi

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