By Alex Berryman
This International Women’s Day, we celebrate how far we have come, while we also recognize how far we still have to go in our pursuit for a more equitable world.
We currently live in the most equitable time in global history, but still, many women do not have access to basic human rights or the ability to determine their future. Purnaa's mission is to challenge stereotypes, empower the marginalized and use the power of dignified employment to create a more equitable Nepal.
No matter caste or creed, women of all nationalities deserve equal access to employment and representation in leadership.
We've come so far
Due to the sacrifices of women before us, women and girls globally have had more access to education, employment and positions of power, far surpassing any previous generation. Whether that is in the home, in the office or over their own lives, women are accessing to self-determination and equality.
Just in the last decade, Nepal has seen a surge of women in leadership. In the 2018 election, Nepal elected its first female president, as well as 88 female representatives in parliament, making Nepal the leader in Asia for women’s representation in politics. Due to increased awareness and activism, women’s literacy has risen by 20% and girls’ enrollment in primary schools has risen by 11% in the last 20 years.
But still have so far to go
Despite changes in leadership and increased education of girls, Nepal maintains a very patriarchal view of women’s equality. Of the working-age women in Nepal, only 22.5% are employed, with the remainder either engaged in maintaining the home or in informal employment such as subsistence farming.
Of those that are employed, 66% are engaged in the informal sector, which is not regulated by governing bodies. With very little oversight, there are no mechanisms in place to protect the rights of female employees. Over 43% of women have reported sexual harassment in the workplace with very few repercussions for the perpetrators.
This issue only compounds issues of discrimination based on caste and illness further separate women from means of employment. Despite extensive legislation outlawing discrimination based on caste, there is still a large social stigma attached to certain people, marking them as 'untouchable' and unemployable. As this pertains to poor and marginalized women, increased instances of discrimination and outright exploitation occur.
Power of Dignified Employment
When women get good jobs, they have the agency to take control of their finances, no longer being dependent on the structures that exploited them.
A stable income as a result of continuous employment provides the means to establish self-sufficiency and security.
At Purnaa, during our hiring process, we not only evaluate based on skill and aptitude, but also on social impact. 55% of Purnaa staff come from marginalized communities, 43% did not graduate high school and 11% never had access to education. Because of their histories and the subsequent lack of employment opportunities, these groups are at high risk of exploitation. A job at Purnaa is truly an opportunity for a transformed life.
Good employment has the potential for incredible impact upon the family as well. With 81% of our staff being women, 37% of these women are the primary source of income for their families, supporting 66 people outside of Purnaa through their monthly wages. With their wages, Purnaa staff have had the freedom to leave shelter homes, buy land, educate their children and rid themselves of crippling debt; thereby breaking free from the self-perpetuating cycle of poverty.
Power of leadership
At Purnaa, we encourage women to enter positions of leadership. With 2 of the 4 owners of Purnaa being women, we not only advocate for women in leadership but we model it.
We consciously promote from within Purnaa, establishing a managerial and leadership team that is predominantly female. This has had not only a great impact on our staff development but also on how Purnaa supports their staff
Our leadership team understands the cultural context many of these women have faced. Because our leadership has experienced a lack of women's health training, our HR manager conducts female-focused training and assists women to access medical care, often for the first time. Many of our staff have had difficulty accessing bank accounts. For many Purnaa staff, the first time they have a bank account is when they join the company and the HRand accounting staff help them set one up. Many do not have driver's licenses, but at Purnaa, the leaders see how empowering it is to have one’s own transportation and so provides resources to obtain driver's licenses.
The best people to understand and advocate for the rights of Nepali women are Nepali women. By having a robust team of Nepali leaders, issues that face our staff can be addressed both inside and outside Purnaa's walls.
Power of Partnership
Partnering with Purnaa in manufacturing is a commitment to establishing equity in Nepal.
In 2018 alone, Purnaa's Production Partners created 145,160 hours of work. The income generated by this work creates freedom for women to leverage their own strengths and stop the cycle of marginalization and poverty.
Be a part of this impact by producing with Purnaa. Submit your design and increase the impact of your brand.
To know more about Purnaa's impact, check out previous blog posts:
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