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Glass bottle houses and silver

Day 12

Another early start saw us on the road to Pharping, a village just outside Kathmandu. The women in Pharping have set up their own organisation, the Women Empowered Society for Development. The aim of WESD is to improve the lives of the women in the village through education and empowerment.

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The founder of WESD and other village leaders showed us around their facilities, including a small medical clinic, a library, an adult classroom for literacy classes and a child care centre. She explained that the organisation has the entire community’s full support because of the economic benefits it has provided to the village. Women in rural Nepal usually have very little education and no economic power, but in Pharping WESD is the only money lender and can only be used by women. This gives a lot of economic power to the women, who are then able to become more active both within their own families and within the village.

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The ladies prepared some masala tea for us- it’s similar to chai- then our guides took us across the village to see the glass bottle house. It was very cool, both figuratively and literally; due to some construction quirk the house is cool in summer and retains warmth in winter. The house is both economically and environmentally superior to the traditional brick house and has won numerous awards. We were all impressed- maybe something similar would work in our homes in Australia!

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Back to Thamel for a rest and some shopping, before we headed out again for Dambar’s silver working factory.

Dambar himself has a very interesting story. He is a member of the Dalit caste, the lowest caste in Nepal. The castes don’t legally exist anymore, but the Dalit people are still not allowed to enter the houses or drink the water of the people of any higher caste. They usually have menial jobs and are very poor. Dambar’s story could have been very short. He contracted tuberculosis when he was a young boy and his family couldn’t afford the medicine. He would have died if not for the assistance of a Dutch visitor, who paid all the medical bills and then sponsored Dambar through school and skills training- specifically silverwork. Dambar now imports raw silver from the Netherlands and trains and employs other Dalit men to make beautiful jewellery, which we sell at the Seven Women stall at La Trobe.

Dambar has a lovely house, and it is huge by Nepali standards. His entire extended family and another Dalit family all live there, and his garden holds geese, chickens, and a couple of overeager guard dogs (thankfully they were in their cages for our visit). The silver factory is on the bottom floor, so we watched the men work on the jewellery before going upstairs to Dambar’s office and making a few purchases.

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Dambar and his family were very hospitable. Dinner was set up in the backyard, and his wife made the best Dhal Bhat we have had on this trip- even the green beans tasted wonderful. After dinner, we were entertained by Dambar’s young nephew, who plays guitar and taught himself to dance by watching television. He was very impressive, and his version of ‘Baby’ was much better than the original.

Overall, it was a fantastic night.

-Erin

This post was modified from the original entries on my personal blog, Erin’s Written World.

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