Most of the women who have returned home after foreign employment have only been able to establish small-scale entreprises due to cash crunch.(Shreejana Shrestha/Republica)
Sad stories of sexual abuse and gross violation of human rights of women in overseas employment, especially in the Gulf region, grab the headlines of newspapers almost everyday in Nepal.
At the same time there are thousands of women who have benefited from foreign employment and established themselves as successful entrepreneurs once they return to Nepal.
Many returnees are bringing in money from overseas and investing it for their brighter future. By doing business in Nepal, they are proudly sharing the financial burden of their families.
Manju Shrestha is one of such exemplary women who has been able established herself as a successful entrepreneur after coming back from Kuwait. Shrestha believes that hard work can pay off anywhere, be it in abroad or homeland.
“I am very happy to come back to my own country and run my own business,” she said.
She makes an average profit of up to Rs 9,000 from her parlor business every month. “The amount of money I am earning here is equivalent to what I used to earn in Kuwait working as a housemaid.”
Shrestha, 37, who is extremely proud to see herself running a parlor business, suggests women should work with same zeal here like in abroad. “If we are determined to do something in our country, nothing can stop us,” she concluded. Shrestha went to Kuwait in 2010 and returned home in 2013.
Pratima Ghimire, 26, a returnee from Oman feels the same. “I don´t think it´s a good idea to spend all our prime of life working for other countries also because Nepal needs us,” she said.
Stating that it was a compulsion for her to leave the country for employment, she said, “If we work with same level of energy and dedication in Nepal the way we work in Oman or Kuwait or Malaysia, we can earn the same here and gain more respect.”
Ghimire, who hails from Hetauda, is soon opening a tailor business. She worked as a housemaid in Oman for two years.
Likewise, Muna Gautam is happy to return to Nepal after ten years. She said that she earned many skills while working in a couple of Gulf States. “My husband and I jointly run a travel agency. I help him in that business,” said Gautam. She went to work as a housemaid in Kuwait at the age of 17. After five years, she moved to Oman and spent five years there.
Returnee migrant women confined in small-scale business
Most of the women who return home after foreign employment have established themselves only as small-scale entrepreneurs.
Others either choose to be employed or remain jobless. The returnees are not being able to slot in themselves in a large-scale business due to various reasons such as limited capital and social factors, including discouragement they receive in Nepal.
Even though the returnee women have high expectation and vision to do something after they come back, many of them soon get dejected because of gender inequality.
Sociologist Dr. Meena Poudel opines that returnee migrant women´s morale is affected once they come back because of gender-based discriminations in this predominantly patriarchal society.
“Such women find it very difficult to excel economically compared to a man because of the nature of the job they usually get abroad and the level of skill they acquire. On top of that social and cultural factors in Nepal are other major hindrances,” said Poudel.
No wonder that women who opt to return home land up in petty feminine jobs such as small beauty parlors or tailoring shop.
“Another reason they do not get good break in Nepal even if they return with some capital is that many of them go abroad illegally via India, and once they return they cannot start a bigger business because they lack citizenship and other necessary documents,” she said. “Opening a small parlor, tea stall or grocery is a different ball game altogether.”
Head of Women Empowerment Unit under United Nation Women, Sharu Joshi Shrestha, however, insists that socio-economic structure of society is the real factor that bars such women from a large-scale business.
“More than 80 percent of household properties such as house and land are registered under the names of men, which means that only 20 percent of women are resourceful despite tax rebate policy and joint land ownership scheme of the government,” said Joshi.
She suggested that proper budget allocation in all Village Development Committees with special focus for the poor and needy people is required to stop female migration and help the returnees to set up their business.
The UN Women has supported around 758 returnee women migrant workers to start small enterprise. Various INGos and NGOs including Pourakhi and Shakti Samuha have been helping the returnees with business set-up trainings.
´You either need guts or vision to help others´
You either need guts or vision to help others. If you strongly desire to extend support to people, you will find a way. I have sponsored two kids. Ganga Basnet was just 12 years old when I brought her home and she is now 22 years old. I helped them to get education by paying their fees. Both of them live with my family. I have two other kids and four of them get along. I am very happy that these two kids committed toward their studies. Ganga joined school for the first time at the age of 12. She was very reluctant to go to school at such that age, but I was able to convince her. Now she is pursuing her Bachelors´ degree second year in a private collage. I dream of making them well-educated in a bid to make them independent. I have also been able to help 55 children from the Chepang community with their education through the Rotary club.
I went for foreign employment because, I thought, it was the only way to empower myself. I gained a broad knowledge on old jewelries and antiques after working for the same sector abroad. Later, I realized the value of my country, resources available here as well as family values. Thus, I established Simsis Export House, a handicraft business, in Nepal after returning from Anguilla, a British territory in the Caribbean. I keep encouraging women to start such businesses in Nepal so that they don´t have to go abroad for their livelihood. I am glad that I came back and am contributing for my own country.
There are hundreds of pros and cons of foreign employment if I talk about my own case. It was very tough for me to work for someone abroad and save every penny for my future. However, I learnt several life-long skills which helped me establish my own business back in Nepal. More than money, the skills I acquired there have been my true assets. I was really surprised to see the level of respect and quality for any kind of work there. Nepali people should also think in the same way so that everyone could work in Nepal.
(As told to Shreejana Shrestha. Rupakheti is the owner of Simsis Export House and president nominee of the Rotary Club of New Road City for the year 2005. She went to British Island, Anguilla, for Foreign Employment in 2002 and returned to Nepal in 2004.)