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Empowering Women from Marginalized Communities in Nepal through Education and Enterpreneurship

December 1st, 2016 10:47 AM
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INTERVIEW

with Charlotte Mellkvist 

Founder & Project Manager at HATTIHATTI 

Charlotte Millkvist

Image Credit: hattihatti.org

"What motivates our work is without a doubt the joy in these women's eyes when they come in everyday and have classes. Not only do they get a proper, meaningful education giving them independence, they grow bonds of friendship with other women with similar backgrounds and interests. It's a very powerful thing to see people bloom out of their shells and grow stronger."

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What does the name HATTIHATTI mean and what do you do as an organization?

HATTIHATTI is a non profit organization which educates and empowers women from marginalized areas in Nepal. Our educational program is focused on entrepreneurship within sustainable tailoring. We provide women enrolled in our program with classes in english, mathematics, advanced tailoring with a focus on sustainability, and how to start & run your own business. The products we make are fashion accessories and home interior made out of recycled dresses. For each sold product, a certain percentage goes into our tailors' individual savings account which is meant as an initial capital for when she starts her own business.

"Hatti" is the Nepali name for elephant. The reason why we chose that name and logo of colorful elephants was to create a label representing creativity, thoughtfulness & strength.

 

What was the inspiration behind this idea and how did you start?

We started out in 2014 when I & David Geiser (founders both from Sweden) moved to Nepal. We saw a need to empower women and grow a more equal Nepal. David worked as a teacher, while I worked within the textile business and combining our two skills, we launched the idea of a program offering theoretical & practical education for women in need. That was the first piece in a puzzle that is still growing.

 

What is the biggest motivation that drives your team to pursue this work?

Most of the women enrolled in our program come from tough & poor backgrounds. What motivates our work is without a doubt the joy in these women's eyes when they come in everyday and have classes. Not only do they get a proper, meaningful education giving them independence, they grow bonds of friendship with other women with similar backgrounds and interests. It's a very powerful thing to see people bloom out of their shells and grow stronger.

 

Tell us one of the most unforgetable stories that you have experienced while working at HATTIHATTI.

There is not only one powerful story - that's the best part. Everyone involved in our program has a unique story. When we started out, we had three women enrolled in our program. One of the girls, Sanu, was a very shy and timid person. She never dared speaking out and smiled keeping her head down. After almost two years, Sanu is still with us and has grown to an outspoken, laughing, creative personality. She embraces learning new things and does it with a big smile. Today she is our production manager and teacher for our new tailors. Education and friendship truly empowers one's self-esteem.

 

How do you see HATTIHATTI in the coming years?

Our goal is simple and strong: we want to help more women and create a more equal Nepal. Since we started out in 2014, two women have successfully graduated from our program and started their own businesses. This proved to us that our vision works. In our near future we wish to enroll 15 women, moving to a bigger office venue and opening a shop where our tailors can practice to sell their own designs.

 

What is the biggest challenge you have been facing so far?

The financial support for achieving our goal is our biggest challenge. Our organisation is run by donations, monthly sponsors, and sales. We feel lucky and overwhelmed by the positive energy and support friends from all over the world encourage us with. Though we are a small organisation, we are growing bigger in a slower pace where we don't rush through important details. We choose quality before quantity and focus 100% on the women enrolled in our program. When we achieve the financial support that gives us the chance to employ more teachers and move to a bigger office space, only then we can help more women and give them qualitative education they deserve.  

 

Any advice to people who also want to start a social enterprise?

Don't be afraid to try. Follow your idéas and passion and dare to fail - however corny it may sound. Another good thing is to cooperate with other people, organisations, entrepreneurs who share the same vision. We have met so many amazing fellow organisations who are eager to help, brainstorm, and cooperate. Sharing, giving and letting others be a part of your work will give you so much in return.

 

HATTIHATTI

HATTIHATTI works to empower people in marginalized communities. We believe in entrepreneurship on a local level to create social & economic sustainability. 

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