In 2011, the Kalpavriksha Greater Goods was established as a social enterprise boutique in Chitwan Valley National Park, Nepal. Alongside Empower Generation (an international non-governmental organization whose mission is to support women’s empowerment through the use of renewable energy technology), Kalpavrisksha Greater Goods outfits women in the community with small solar powered lamps, and in turn teaches them fair-trade business practices in handy craft making skills. In return, these products are sold from the boutique and raise continual income for the women’s families in addition to supporting the efforts of the co-operative.
In this region, women are the primary energy managers of their home. Wood and kerosene are heavily used, producing smoke and harmful fumes. These byproducts are especially dangerous to women and children, who spend more time at home and in the kitchen. The long-term expense of kerosene for a home with little or no income is a constant financial drain, proving to be economically unsound.
The owner of Kalpavriksha Greater Goods, Sita Adhikari, whose background is in social work, has been involved in micro-finance and women’s empowerment for the past ten years. In that time she founded Jhuwani Community Women Saving and Credit Cooperative. This organization provides small loans to women wanting to start a small business, and other economic activities. Mrs. Adikhari is equally active promoting the Women’s cooperative and Jhuwani community library, whose mission is to engage women in the continuous learning opportunities that this service provides. This work landed as Project Inspire 2013 finalist. Now this awarded money is launching My Digital Friend For a Healthy Life pilot program, aimed at lowering uterine cancer, which is prevalent in Bachhauli Chitwan.
Advancements like solar technology cannot change communities alone. Rather, the response to the technology is what causes change. Empower Generation educates their members in practical fair-trade business knowledge and are given the technical training to develop a product to sell. In conjunction, the solar lamps and stoves are sold to the women on micro-credit. The solar powered technology is then applied to meet their household needs. This liberates time spent collecting wood, conserves the local forests from over-harvesting, and allows productivity beyond daylight hours. In return, these products are sold through Kalpalvrisha Greater Goods. Over a short period the solar is paid for, and the women have created a steady flow of income. Jointly, this allows members to pay small dues into the Renewable Energy Fund designed to finance these projects.
“Decreasing the time women [and children] would otherwise spend collecting fuel can be filled learning or engaging economically productive activities. When educated in practical business knowledge, the women are able to build her own capacity and provide more for her family.” – Sita Adikhari
As a female social entrepreneur, Sita sticks to the importance of women to understand their potential, and put it to use. In 2012, Sita decided to be Country Director of Empower Generation, enthusiastic to support more women throughout Nepal. Females are the backbone of the homes and community, yet profoundly marginalized by society, the culture, religion, and law. Empowerment coincides with support from the community and other women for inspiration and growth. Moreover, the aggregate effect of these works help preserve the already threatened forests surrounding the rural communities and national parks in which they live. As the positive social and environmental effects of their work take hold, it is clear that Kalpavriksha Greater Goods and Empower Generation are well on their way to shaping the future of Nepal and seeing though the social change in which we believe.