The “special shop” was located on the second floor of the children’s library. There was no sign for the shop at all. On the wall, there were five articles of Nepali traditional clothing with the names of the item on them.
The reception girl of the children’s library, established by the Japanese Buddhism Foundation in 2013, said, “You can go upstairs and have a look at our clothing shop.”
How does a public welfare library run a clothing shop?
This “shop” is actually part of a public welfare project run by the Japanese Buddhism Foundation as well. Its full name is the Women’s Sewing Project, which aims at empowering girls from 16 to 20 with sewing skills so that they can be more independent and self-reliant in the future.
The project is a special school for these girls after they finish their formal schooling — whether it’s primary or secondary school — at which they can learn a practical trade to earn a living.
About seven girls were in the sewing room, learning to make clothes. Sangita Gurung, their teacher seated near the door, was watching them work and giving help and suggestions when the girls faced some problems.
The girls study at the center roughly six hours a day. Each girl studies in the “sewing school” for nine months and then they are qualified to work.
Since the beginning of 2013, 20 girls have graduated from the school; most of whom have found jobs related to the clothing industry.
According to the World Bank,in 2013, the employment rate of females aged 15 to 24 in Nepal was 72.30%. The employment rate of males aged 15 to 24 in Nepal was measured at 71.50% that year. The female employment rate has increased in recent decades throughout the country, from 48 % in 1992 to 72% in 2013, according to the same report. With women working more, training centers such as the sewing school provide a place to increase their skills.
Besides learning basic sewing skills, girls try to create some new styles too. The clothes on the wall were some of their successful creations.
Next to the sewing classroom is Sangita Gurung’s office. Inside, there are two big paper boxes overflowing with clothes. These clothes were girls’ trial works from class, collected together and then awaiting buyers.
People who visit the library on the first floor would be invited to visit the “shop” and buy the clothes directly from Gurung’s office. The income becomes funding for The Women’s Sewing Project.
“In one year, when we have made more clothes, the foundation will find a retail store on the street for the The Women’s Sewing Project,” Gurung said.
A girl was sewing a dress with needle and thread, which was the final step of making a dress. Behind her were two younger girls. The two girls struggled to cut the cloth into smaller pieces, one used the scissors to cut while the other was pressing on the clothes in case it slipped away.