Gita Bashyal is an entrepreneur based in Palpa. The mother of two owns a poultry and runs a vegetable business through which she is inspiring other women to follow in her footsteps.
When asked what being an entrepreneur means to her, Gita Bashyal says: It’s about “respect and independence.” She wants respect from her community for her hard work and perseverance, and independence and freedom afforded to her by her enterprise.
She beams when she recounts how even her husband sometimes comes to her asking for money to cover expenses. Growing up and living in a society where men are normally the providers, she takes immense pride in being the potential harbinger of a new society where women share the responsibility of providing for their families together with their husbands.
Currently she owns 1,300 chickens, 4,500 tomato plants and 300 cucumber plants but hopes to expand her operation to 10,000 chicks. In addition to taking care of her livestock and crops, she also has to take care of her children and tend to the needs of her family.
Juggling all these roles is extremely difficult, Gita admits, for even she gets twenty four hours in a day. But she smiles as she says that watching her crops grow takes away all the pain. She recounts how a Canadian professor once told her that for the next generation to enjoy a good life, the present must be prepared to work hard and make sacrifices – a phrase that deeply resonates within her. She is driven by her desire to build a better life for her children, to educate them and allow them to achieve all that they set their minds to.
Her daughter is a testament to Gita’s aspiration to leave no stone unturned in the upbringing of her children. Currently studying medicine, her future is bright as a result of the perseverance and ambition of her parents. The unjustifiably high costs of medical school deter many students of modest means from pursuing a career in medicine. And so it is not common for a farmer to be able to send her child to medical school in Nepal. But Gita Basyal is no ordinary farmer. She has the ceaseless determination of a mother and the unequaled work ethic of a farmer.
It is not only the well-being of her children that pushes Gita to work harder. Her compassion and ambitions also extend to the other parents and children, who are struggling to make a living. When asked about her dreams and ambitions, she says she dreams of employing 15-20 people, so that they too can enjoy the same independence that she does, so that they can afford to care for and provide their children with a good education. Although she started her work in agriculture as a means to increase her household income, today, it means much more to her than that. It is a medium through which she wants to empower others. She hopes that her success can tie in, in some way, with the welfare of those who are less fortunate than her.
It is not only the well-being of her children that pushes Gita to work harder. Her compassion and ambitions also extend to the other parents and children, who are struggling to make a living.
Sadly, the harsh truth is that the support and freedom that Gita receives from her family and friends is not the norm in Palpa. Women looking to start their own enterprises have to overcome immense obstacles such as the lack of resources and government assistance and support from their husbands. In fact, only 10 per cent of SMEs are owned by women in the South Asia region.
Through her successful enterprise, she has become a change agent. She aims to change the mindset that women must be restrained to house work by not only providing employment opportunities for women through her enterprise, but also by acting as an example to all those women who have been restricted by their husbands, their families or even their communities.
Women face a number of barriers that hinder their economic success. Not only do they have limited access to basic financial services, including checking and savings accounts, as well as to formal credit, but they also tend to be less educated with less business experience and networks than their male counterparts.
It is clear that when a woman decides to start an enterprise, the odds are stacked well against her.
Supporting and encouraging women entrepreneurs like Gita is a step we must take to change that.
(The author is associated with Daayitwa.)