During a rainy day of monsoon season here in Kathmandu, I meandered through city dwellers on Ring Road in the direction of Sarawagi's DreamWeavers factory.
Bimala, Sarawagi's small and talented designer, showed me in and introduced me to Nirmala, a shy but happy woman, one of the recently graduated Sarawagi DreamWeavers who is already quick and skilled at her new craft. We sat in the factory next to a few looms, the calming sound of rain pattering on the tin roof, and Bimala excitedly told me about the origins of this program.
What's this program all about?
In 2015, Shally- Sarawagi's humble and passionate manager, was considering the existing need for labor in the carpet industry. Rugs are Nepal's number three export, but there is a lack of reliable labor in this sector. At the same time, there are so many unemployed and underprivileged people in Nepal; could she mend these problems to help both her company and the people of her country? She had a thought, and shared this concept with Bimala, Sarawagi’s talented designer, who eagerly offered to help bring the proposed project to life. Together, they dreamt up a new program which would suitably be called "DreamWeavers."
Their hope for this program was to find women who were victims of bonded labor, trafficking, and other forms of abuse across Nepal who were searching for opportunity and a chance to uplift their lives. Sarawagi would offer them a new opportunity: they would be trained in the art of weaving in an attempt to equip them with skills to join the work industry and help them sustain their lives independently. How do you weave a dream into reality? Bringing this idea to life was a task that required much time, patience, and persistence.
"How do you weave
a dream into reality?"
Weaving the program to life
Over many months, Shally and Bimala contacted countless NGOs within Nepal, finally finding a potential collaboration, but the partnership fell through when the destructive earthquake struck in April and each business faced priority changes. Once back on their feet, Shally and Bimala found a fitting partner: Nepal Youth Foundation (NYF), a nonprofit US-based organization focused on freeing girls from indentured servitude and providing children in Nepal with education, housing, and support. Although bonded labor has been illegal in Nepal since 2001, its history has left many girls stuck in this system. NYF agreed to find these women and work with Sarawagi in its first collaboration in the carpet sector.
Will the DreamWeavers program be a success?
Bimala admits that there was much doubt in the air and she questioned if this project would work; however, after launching their pilot phase in March of 2016, to everyone's delight, Sarawagi found their first three DreamWeavers- Babita, Shobha, and Nirmala. They learned to weave in just 6 weeks and graduated in May!
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