In May this year, we merged with Empower Generation, an organisation that provides free business skills training and support to empower rural women to become entrepreneurs.
Many of the women we work with in Nepal’s villages live below the national poverty line. Despite living in poverty, marrying young, and being denied an education or equal access to resources, these women are incredibly resilient and entrepreneurial.
One of these inspiring women is Sabitra, who has overcome significant challenges since her childhood. She grew up in a small two-room house with her five siblings, mother and father. Her family is one of the poorest in the small community of Rapti, Chitwan in Nepal’s Central Region.
At eight years old, Sabitra experienced a sudden onset of a partial paralysis. Unable to walk or even eat on her own, Sabitra had to stop attending school, and her family struggled to provide her adequate care. For six years, she was isolated at home while her parents desperately tried to heal their daughter.
“At many points the situation was so critical, my parents thought ‘Today or tomorrow’… They thought I would die.”
But Sabitra did not give up.
Sabitra was determined not to let her illness restrict her opportunity to learn. At age 14, she went back to school. She used crutches to help her walk to class and her friends took notes for her since she couldn’t sit on a bench and write. Lying in bed, she studied every day and eventually graduated from grade 10. Sabitra was eager to continue her education, but like so many of Nepal’s girls, her family’s income was too low to pay for tuition and school books for all of their children. Sabitra was left behind.
Looking for another way to help her family, she found out about Empower Generation. Today, we’re proud to celebrate Sabitra as one of our most successful entrepreneurs in Nepal.
During the training, Sabitra learned how to sell life-improving products like solar lights, clean cookstoves and feminine hygiene pads. Not only do these sales guarantee her an income, but she is also helping other families in her community.
For Sabitra, accessing this training program was the first step towards realising her true potential. She learned about the benefits the products provided, how to pitch to her customers, how to keep daily accounts and manage stock. Still unable to walk without her crutches, she took to the streets anyway, making door-to-door sales. It was a hard slog. Because of the isolation during her illness, many people didn’t know and trust her at first. It was painful to walk for miles, only to make a single sale a day.
But with the ongoing support from her area manager Chanchala, Sabitra persisted. Chanchala called Sabitra every day to provide mentorship and share sales tips. She frequently drove Sabitra to microfinance organisations and community gatherings to pitch her products in front of large groups. Sabitra’s confidence and skills grew with every call and visit, and her sales improved steadily.
With the knowledge and support we provide in our training programs, empowered and entrepreneurial women like Sabitra develop their professional skills, gain financial independence and improve their confidence, all whilst serving their community
“The main thing I’ve learned from starting my own business was how to talk to customers. I’ve formed deep connections with many community members and people now trust me.”
Since Pollinate Energy was founded by six young Australians in 2013, we have not only expanded to six cities across India to reach families living in slums, but identified innovate ways to reach more rural families with our sustainable products. A first in the last-mile distribution sector, our merger with US-based Empower Generation and their sister organisation in Nepal means we can recruit and train 1000 women like Sabitra, working across two countries over the next two years.
Sabitra’s tenacity combined with her new business skills has improved the livelihood for her entire family and has ensured her community has access to sustainable products like solar lights that replace toxic, dangerous and expensive kerosene.
“I used to be like a 90-year old woman, all skin and bones. I was dependent on my family for money. Now I can meet my own expenses, which is less of a strain on them. I feel good that I can meet my own basic needs.”
Sabitra’s story doesn’t end here. Over the coming year, she plans on increasing her sales and save money in order to start up a new shop at the local market.
She’s an inspiration to her entire community and our team at Pollinate Energy, and a testament to what is possible when women are given the tools to become business leaders.
We can’t wait to be bring you more stories of women’s success empowering themselves and their communities. Read more about the merger between Pollinate Energy and Empower Generation.