You might have heard about the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that rocked Nepal last month. What you might not have known is that SFL leaders have been actively spreading the message of liberty in the country for a while now. As a member of SFL’s South Asian Executive Board studying law in Nepal, I organized several workshops with Women For Liberty connecting local female entrepreneurs with organizations like Seva Nepal and Krishi Club to help commercialize their ideas.
At a secret meeting place in Jitpur, we held our first workshop on April 9th with 35 participants.The workshop began with an introduction to Women For Liberty and sharing success stories from our recent project development. The session that followed was a discussion in which some women came forward to share their experiences.
One among them was 32-year-old Shanti Mallaha who has been running a small liquor shop after the death of her husband. Her sales are good, but most nights a few cops hang around and take liquor without paying. Sometimes she said her lost income is equal to half of the monthly cost of caring for her child. However, Shanti could not complain lest she risk raising trouble from the state.
36-year-old Munni Mallaha added, “Rudeness and abuse of authority are the general traits of these officials. I have gone to the authorities to get my national identity card, but every time I go they ask me for $5. I earn $2 to $3 per day and if I give them $5, my family will starve the next two days.”
There are so many women who are facing similar problems. Most of them said that working illegally, without asking permission from the authorities is much better than working legally. Working informally has led to happiness while working formally has caused them to spend more money. Now, they simply have to hope that they won’t ever get caught.
These women and their female ancestors have been living for decades on land that they are not allowed to own. If they ask the authorities about getting a title in their names, they are told to leave the land and go somewhere else. At the moment, their main fear is that one day the land will be taken away from them with no hope of restitution.
We felt somewhat powerless and unable to answer their questions on how our organization could help get their homes back. All I could promise them was to share their stories with the larger public. I believe that awareness is the best beginning for taking action against such happenings.
Therefore, this is SFL’s small effort to support these women, and we will never turn our backs. With your support of SFL’s network, our South Asian student leaders and Women For Liberty will continue to host events in Nepal to protect the entrepreneurial spirit of the individual that makes societies prosper — especially after such a tragedy like last month’s earthquake.