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Nepal: From Servant to My Small Shop

Momina was most impressed by the nonformal education model offered by Nari Bikas. She puts what she can aside for times of need and now has over 2,000 rupees in the bank.
"I never imagined I'd have a shop of my own,"confides Momina Khatun, elated. Until 2 years ago, Momina was a domestic child laborer, working long hours for nominal pay. "Now I'm confident I can stand on my own feet,"she adds.

Momina was never able to go to school. One among eight siblings, her parents could not afford to send Momina or her sisters to school. Her father, a mason, could only find irregular work, so Momina became a domestic servant to supplement the family's income. In Nepal, one of every three children is a child laborer, with an estimated 2.6 million children between the ages of five and fourteen working on farms, in factories, in businesses, or in other people's homes.

Despite having to work, whenever she could get away, Momina attended a nonformal education class given by Nari Bikas Sangh, a nongovernmental organization in Morang district. Impressed by her initiative, Nari Bikas offered the 17-year-old an apprenticeship. The apprenticeship program supports older child laborers, too old to be enrolled in formal school, by offering them opportunities for dignified employment. The apprenticeship is made possible through World Education's Brighter Futures Program.

Brighter Futures, funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, worked with local NGO partners to increase children's access to education, and to improve the relevance and quality of education and training for children who have been withdrawn from abusive forms of child labor. This included providing nonformal and vocational education opportunities, and matching youths' interest with their skills and abilities.

With this in mind, Nari Bikas helped Momina assess the viability of a vegetable shop in her area. Momina did the groundwork and learned that there is a market three days a week in different areas, but for the remainder of the week, no vegetables are available in her community. Nari Bikas then introduced Momina to a vegetable retailer. During her apprenticeship she learned valuable skills including how to price, weigh, and market produce.

To launch her venture, with World Education support, Nari Bikas supplied Momina with equipment, including a measuring scale, weights, and containers. Momina started small, with a basket of vegetables, which she buys from a wholesaler—a tactic she learned from Nari Bikas—to get them at cost. "In class, we learned about using a small investment to make a quick turnover,"she recalls. Within half a year, she had saved enough to rent a small shop that is both close to her home and central to the bazaar.

Momina keeps accounts, and estimates she earns between 100 and 150 rupees a day. She contributed to her sister's wedding, helps her father bear household expenses, and is even able to send her sisters to school, in hopes of a better future for them.

"Momina now speaks her mind. She didn't used to speak at all. She's got better personal hygiene and looks happier than when she spent her days washing dishes, comments Nari Bikas facilitator Anu. "This was a girl who had no ambitions, and now she is thinking about expanding her small shop!"