When I first met Namrata Samal a year ago, I was pleasantly surprised by her confidence. Working in the rural far west is no easy feat, so the dedication of the 19-year old Namrata, who is the Marketing Assistant at the Sakchyam-supported Shikhar Insurance Branch in Manma, Kalikot, definitely left a mark on me.
Namrata who originally hails from Jumla is married and is currently based in Kalikot. “It was a bit frustrating in the beginning because it was very difficult to make people understand about the concept of insurance. But I was determined not to give up and with patience and continuous hardwork, it gradually got easier,” says Namrata with much vigor.
21-year old Ramlaxmi Malla echoes the same. As the Branch In-charge of Sakchyam-supported Shikhar Insurance Branch in Mugu, Ramlaxmi shares, “Weather Index Insurance (WII) was an alien concept and it was difficult to convince people to get on board, but with continuous efforts we have gained the trust of the local people.” As a result, she was able to increase WII beneficiaries from 65 apple farmers last year to 120 this year.
Both Namrata and Ramlaxmi have defied the common norm of rural far west Nepal where women are rarely seen in the workplace. “I come from a traditional family who have relied on farming for livelihood. So they were initially very hesitant about letting me take this opportunity. But this was my first job and I wanted to help strengthen my family’s financial condition. So I took it,” shares Namrata. With the stable income, Ramlaxmi has also been able to support her parents at home. “My parents understood the importance of education and sent me to school, now it is my turn to support them.”
But still everyday it is a balancing act between office and house work for both of them. So, what keeps them motivated despite the challenges? “I want to be the change that I want to see in my community. Whether you are from Kathmandu or Kalikot, if given the opportunity, women can achieve anything,” says Namrata.
As I finish talking to both these inspiring ladies and start preparing for the International Women’s Day campaign, I begin to think of what truly helps women achieve greater heights – professionally. Three things stick with me from my conversation with them – it takes courage to take the leap, it takes the right opportunity and thirdly, and most importantly it needs support – from the family, community and workplace for any woman to excel in her field. Because ultimately, as philanthropist Melinda Gates puts it, “When money flows into the hands of women who have the authority to use it, everything changes – for women, their families, and their communities.”
Besides the economic empowerment of both the ladies, who are also pursuing their Bachelor’s Degree in their local colleges, they are, in fact, inspiring many young girls in their hometown to break the stereotype. This, in itself is a great achievement.
So, this women’s day let us celebrate achievements of women who have gone against all odds and are challenging the norm to bring a positive change in their community. Let us #PressforProgress.
By Ayusha Nirola, Sakchyam Access to Finance Programme