In a small hillside village in western Nepal, Bhagwati kneels beside the fire and warms her hands in front of red-hot coals.
As she prepares breakfast for her two children, the sun creeps above the fog – its warm glow beginning to heat the chilled air. On the menu this morning is dal bhat, a traditional Nepalese meal of rice and lentils.
Bhagwati is 31 years old. Her two children – a boy, 13, and a girl, 11 – have gone to collect water from the community tap, about five minutes’ walk away. As Bhagwati stirs the steaming pot of lentils, she shares her story.
When Bhagwati’s husband became physically disabled nine years ago, it threw her life into uncertainty. He was not able to work, casting Bhagwati into the role of single parent, as well as being a primary carer for her husband. This took an extreme toll on her.
“It was stressful because I had to look after the children and the housework,” she says. “I felt like all the responsibility fell on my shoulders.”
There were times when she didn’t know how they would survive. “We did not have enough food, and we often ran out of money.”
Bhagwati began to see her life slipping away. Her children’s futures were threatened through no fault of her own. But she refused to give up. “I was determined to gain some skills and improve my life. ADRA’s training taught me tailoring skills and how to run a small business.”
The training was part of the GOAL project, which empowers people in vulnerable communities through micro-enterprise and entrepreneurship training. “I studied for six months in the class. After learning the skills, I was able to train others. With that money I bought a new sewing machine.”
Once she established her business, she was able to buy another machine – an overlocker.
As a woman in Nepal, Bhagwati has faced many challenges. Traditionally, Nepalese women face discrimination and a lack of respect. But women like Bhagwati are challenging these norms.
ADRA Nepal project officer Kabir Ratna Sthapit says Bhagwati is an inspiration to other women in her community. “Through determination and hard work, Bhagwati is ensuring a brighter future for her children,” he says.
The transformation in her life is inspirational. Despite being thrust into the role of sole carer and single parent, Bhagwati has thrived. Despite hardship and disadvantage, she has fought every day to improve her family’s wellbeing, striving to set up her children for success. Not only that, she has become a leader to others, generously paying forward what she has received.
“Whatever skills I have learned, I teach them to others so they can learn,” Bhagwati says. “Compared to before, there is a big difference in my life. I am very happy now. When I set my mind to something, I can achieve it. I feel empowered to do anything I want to do.”
But while her life now is unrecognisable from nine years ago, Bhagwati is terrified of her children becoming stuck in the cycle of poverty. She desperately wants them to get an education, but can’t help them as much as she would like to.
“As a child, I was only able to study up to grade five,” she says. “It means I’m not able to help my children with their homework. Education is important because if you don’t study, you will be left behind,” she says. “But as my children are getting older, I worry whether I will be able to support their education.”
As her children return from collecting water, Bhagwati smiles. “I want them to have a bright future.” Rebina, her daughter, is already in her school uniform. “I like going to school because I get to learn new things,” she says excitedly. “When I grow up, I want to be a doctor so I can help people who are sick.”
Bhagwati knows what poverty feels like, and she’s desperate to ensure her children have a brighter future.
Original Story: ADRA Australia