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Samanata Thapa: Taking Strides on Professionalizing Domestic Workers in Nepal

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#WinnerSpeaks: EmpowHER 2016

Samanata Thapa is a recent graduate of BBA from Kathmandu College of Management. Her project, Redefine was declared as one of the winning impact projects of EmpowHER 2016 and was awarded with Rs. 50,000 as the seed fund money to launch the project.

The project, Redefine seeks to provide a quality service in different communities by uplifting and polishing the capabilities of women domestic workers in Kathmandu.

Glocal Khabar had an opportunity to have a lively discussion with her and know about her experiences from EmpowHER 2016 and the journey ahead. Below is an excerpt from the discussion:

How did you come to be part of EmpowHER 2016?

I first came across EmpowHER booth at a women’s day bazaar. Later, when the applications opened, I was nominated by people who were related to the programme and are in the advising committee for EmpowHER 2016.

Would you please briefly share about your 3-months of the journey in EmpowHER?

The 3-months journey in EmpowHER has been an amazing learning experience. I joined EmpowHER when I was lost among the questions like “What Next?”. An idea that would have just been an idea until today, not knowing when is the perfect time to start, is now being implemented into action because of this programme, which has given me a direction and find the in depth reasons to drive it.  In the past 3 months, I have learned to see the world more critically and question the norms that is affecting women in our society. The learning environment itself was too positive with 15 young women with 15 great ideas. They have taught me a lot about the issues their ideas are based upon, something I had not realized earlier. I would say my journey as an EmpowHER cohort has been a life changing experience, which has brought me closer to my community, people and my true self.

How does it feel about becoming a winning Change maker?

I feel more responsible and accountable to the people who have believed me to be a winning change maker.  I have always believed that what the project aims to do is required in our society, but knowing that there are so many people who believe in it and support it to go further has encouraged me to take this project to a whole new level.

What do you consider is the special quality in you that made you the winner?

I have always been passionate about empowering others to develop the community. I think it is my ability to creatively knit a relationship between the needs of the community and the solution that made me be one of the winners.

Talking about your impact project, what was the spark that caused you to choose that particular project?

One day while I was at home, I learned that my helper didi had been lying to her friends and neighbors that she was working as a domestic helper. She was ashamed to tell people that she works as a domestic help and feared that one day her children won’t respect her because the society does not respect a domestic helper. Although she worked day and night to support her family, she was not proud of her work. This was the point when I realized that there are a lot more domestic workers like her who are ashamed of the job that helps them support their family.

Looking closely at the matter, many service takers are also not satisfied with the work of their domestic helpers. The society lacks a quality service, which gives service takers a reason not to pay a good salary to their helpers, which is one of the main reasons why domestic helpers are not proud of their work. They do not get a good paycheck to uplift their living standard.

This situation gave me a reason to develop our domestic workers, train them and professionalize this sector of labor to ensure they are protected, have a better living standard and are capable to provide a quality service to the society. Hence, this is why I chose this particular impact project.

Currently, I have chosen Patan to begin with my project as my helper didi has been the strongest connection to many domestic workers in the area, who are in a desperate need of development.

Now, you have received the seed fund money that you had been waiting for, to kick start the project. So, how will you initiate the project, and how will it move ahead?

The good news is, I did not wait for my project to kick start with the seed fund money and started it 2 weeks ahead of the grand finale, upon the suggestion of my mentors and the drive that EmpowHER was able to instill in me. But the seed fund money means a lot to me, which I look forward to invest on facilitating the trainings which will train at least 100 women by the end of 2017, promotions to find suitable households to deploy the trainees and to legally register the project as a service venture with a social cause.

How long do you think the project work will go ahead? Have you already made plans to scale up the project area and make it reach to a wider community? And, do you also see the possibility of taking the project nationally in coordination with the authorities and organizations concerned?

Five years down the line I see this project as a platform and a network of professional domestic helpers, providing an A class service to our society. The project aims to expand beyond the existing domestic workers in Kathmandu Valley and reach to the workers who are often trapped abroad seeking for better opportunities. Once the operations are stable and we have a good network of service takers and providers in the community, I aim to expand the project to Butwal and Dharan and also improve our training modules by the end of each training.

What is your reflection about EmpowHER and in what way was it able to bring about a change in you? And, what do you want to say to the girls out there about the project ‘EmpowHER’, who might have not known about it?

EmpowHER has helped me become more disciplined. I was not a morning person, but after joining it, I had to wake up by 7 AM in the morning to attend the sessions. After each session, I would find myself realizing how productive a day can be just by waking up early. It made me value the deadlines and the power of “now or never”. An idea that many did not believe and only made me realize that it was difficult, EmpowHER guided me to break it down and strategize it despite the difficulties, making me realize that nothing comes easy in life.  Today, an idea that would probably have just been an idea is being implemented because I joined EmpowHER.

My message to all the girls out there who know and don’t know about EmpowHER would be:

“An opportunity and platform to reach out to the issues prevalent in the society does not come easy for women in a country like Nepal. We all need a direction, mentorship and collaboration to take an idea ahead and EmpowHER is the best place to start with.”