The Papermakers

Mahabir Pun believes in providing educational opportunities both academic and vocational for everyone in Nepal. He holds close to his heart and philosophy the desire to move away from handouts and instead provide hands-up solutions for people to help themselves. Creating the paper making industry in villages has especially impacted poor women with limited education. It has given them an outlet for artistic expression and income earning skills.

I had the opportunity to work with several of the women during the paper bead training last October. I cherished every minute of time spent with them. Although serious students I could see they shared a collective identity as women who shared a passion for the artistic side of paper making. They were also funny, playing jokes on me daily. I have no jewelry making skills and their favorite joke was to hand me supplies and tell me I was boss….and then giggle as they instructed me…the Nepali version of a practical joke. They were already skilled bookmakers and embraced the chance to stretch themselves with jewelry making which they had learned in a previous workshop sponsored by the Micro-Enterprise Development Program/UNDP.

The women are paid 200 rupees/day ($2.31 USD) to make the paper and the products. Their salary is determined by village social workers. Social workers are individuals who volunteer their expertise and time to make community decisions. Social workers are the village leaders called “work chairman”. Each year they meet to decide the going rate for labor and goods. This is anything from the price of potatoes to labor wages to the cost of raksi, which is the local distilled alcohol made from millet. Chitra stated the wages paid to the women are fair. Considering the average Nepalese household income is less than $1 USD/day…it’s hard to argue.

Next week I will be revealing more of Mahabir’s life and how it has shaped who he is today. It’s difficult to imagine this fierce educational warrior as a young boy but join me next week as I talk about Mahabir’s childhood in Nangi.

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