A mile in Maiya's shoesJan 10, 2017
A shoe-making enterprise started with training and support from UNDP’s MEDEP has not just enabled a mother of two to help pull her family back on its feet after the earthquake, but also altered the dynamics within their home—for the better
Having lost her house in Mahadevsthan, Kavrepalanchowk, in the 2015 earthquake, Maiya Ramtel had been initially unsure as to how she could possibly contribute to her family’s financial recovery. After all, husband Durga Bahadur had been their sole provider thus far, working as a driver in New Delhi. But in such trying times, Maiya was determined to help reinforce his earnings somehow so that they could more easily get back on their feet.
She decided, then, to try her hand at making shoes, but it wasn’t going to be easy. Married at 17, Maiya had never attended school owing to her family’s weak economic condition, and had therefore few technical skills to speak of. And Durga was proving unsupportive to boot: he just wasn’t convinced the venture would lead anywhere, and did not believe she could do well at what he thought was essentially a “man’s job”.
That dismissal, however, only served to spur Maiya further.
“Of course it felt bad at first, but it also motivated me to push ahead, try to prove to him, and others, that I had it in me to do this,” she says. “And I did.”
Indeed, Maiya’s determination and willingness to work hard eventually pulled her through the odds, but none of it would have happened, she says, without the help she received from UNDP’s Micro-Enterprise Development Programme (MEDEP) in the process. It was thanks to a training and support provided by the Rapid Enterprise and Livelihoods Recovery Project (RELRP), implemented by UNDP with financial assistance from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and technical assistance from MEDEP, that her entrepreneurial journey took off in earnest. “I was given the needed technical skills, technology in the form of pressing and stitching machines, and the business know-how to build and scale-up my enterprise,” she says of her experience.
Having set out with a small investment of Rs. 2,000 and modest initial profits of Rs. 2,500, it’s astonishing to see how far Maiya has come today: she now earns around Rs. 55,000 a month from making and selling shoes, targeted primarily at local women and children, in her Sundar Lady Shoes Store in Kuntabesi Bazar. Part of the profits are then reinvested in buying additional raw materials to further expand her business capacity.
Maiya, who is present-day chairperson of the Makhamali Micro Entrepreneurs Group Association (MEGA) and the Lady Shoe-Making Micro Entrepreneurs Group, is also a source of inspiration for women of her community, whom she hopes to be able to help. She plans to continue growing her enterprise and training others like her who might be interested in learning a new lucrative craft. “Entrepreneurship is linked to independence, and it’s especially important for women,” she says. “When a woman is able to add to the family’s income, she isn’t completely reliant on her husband, and more inclined to voicing her opinions and playing a bigger role in decision-making.”
That change couldn’t be more evident than in Maiya’s own family. Durga, no longer skeptical of his wife’s abilities, has given up his job in India, and now works with her in the shop, giving her a hand with the stitching and cutting. Not only that, he’s even started to help with chores at home, according to Maiya.
Furthermore, Maiya says that the money she makes has helped to ensure that her children—her daughter, in particular—don’t miss out on the opportunity to study, the way she did, because there are few things more important than a good education. “I want my daughter to be knowledgeable and skilled and independent, so that she doesn’t have to rely on anyone else to fulfill her wishes,” she says.