“You educate a man; you educate a man. You educate a woman; you educate a generation.”
That is at the very spirit of our program, not only enabling these entrepreneurs to read, write, and learn, but also to instill behaviors around the importance of education for generations to come.
Across various interactions with these women, what we found interesting was the curiosity and the willingness to read, learn and above all, communicate. The training programs are aimed at instilling a sense of confidence and independence, while also providing them the necessary means and skills to engage in business efficiently and effectively.
According to reports focusing on the Literacy rate in Nepal, the Nepal Living Standards Survey 2010-2011, the adult literacy rate was 56.6%, with a huge variation between men and women. While male literacy rate was 71.6%, it was only 44.5% for women. Furthermore, highlighting the stark difference between men and women, women receive about 16% of undergraduate and 11% of doctorate degrees in engineering; less than 22% of doctorate degrees in math and physical sciences; 28% of undergraduate and 15% of doctorate degrees in computer and information sciences.
Basic literacy and understanding of math and other pertinent subjects are only half of the story for these women. Whereas the Terai, the flatland region of Nepal which borders India, is home to diverse communities, all speaking various indigenous languages. With over 100 women engaged in the program, over half of them speak a language other than Nepali as their primary language.
With the national language being Nepali and mother tongue for approximately 45 percent of the population, it is essential for the business women to develop their Nepali language skills to expand their market outreach. Therefore, with a large portion of the entrepreneurs having only basic Nepali language skills, there is a need for the entrepreneurs to increase their capabilities and improve their Nepali.
Thus, to build the capacity, capabilities, and to bridge the communication gap existing between the group of entrepreneurs and consumers, the project team, in consultation with the entrepreneurs, began administering literacy training sessions. With a focus on supporting the 66 entrepreneurs that are either illiterate or only have basic literacy, all women were invited to partake in literacy classes that started at the end of March. As a beginning to the sessions, the cafe group underwent the literacy training during late March and early April. With the second wave of Covid-19 sweeping through the country and Kapilvastu being in lockdown since the beginning of May 2021, the training sessions with other groups have been halted to maintain Covid protocols.