By Amir Maharjan
Sixteen adults, either using wheelchairs or crutches at Apanga Sewa Kendra Fair Trade Group (ASK-FTG) are seen using their abilities to make handicrafts and earn fair price. Their spinal injuries, mental and physical conditions have not stopped them to realize their potentials.
These producers can sit on their wheelchairs or other chairs and use their hands to make different items. They used to make candles in 2013 when ASK-FTG was just established in 2013. Candles were highly demanded then as power cuts was normal and sometimes it would go on for 15 hours. However, the demand of candles in local markets has started to decline as the power problem has been resolved.
“We needed to take extra precaution while making candles as it used chemicals and fire. We also required to move around,” said Gita Bhul, who has difficulty in walking because of clubfoot.
The organization used to take care of these people by selling bangles and candles. The income however would not be enough to even buy regular grocery. They then started seeking monetary and in-kind donations from visitors. After 2015’s earthquakes, Oxfam’s Sustainable Livelihoods Support project, implemented by Fair Trade Group Nepal, identified ASK-FTJ and provided training on making crystal jewelry and knitting beads (as per their demand) as well as linked them with Fair Trade Group Nepal’s member organizations for its sale.
The makers of the beautiful knickknacks started to expand their market outreach. In July 2017, an exhibition was organized at ASK-FTN promoting beads and crystal products. Soon after, ASK was approached by an outside entity “Nepal Craft” to buy their products. With this initiative, ASK-FTG made a fair increment on their monthly average sales turnover. The member's average monthly individual income reaches up to NPR 3000, and the organization is able to cover their daily costs such as food and accommodation. The project has also supported the producers to showcase their products at different fairs and they were able to sell products worth NPR. 30, 620.
“Disability makes it challenging for us to compete and survive in the market, but beads knitting can be done in a sitting position,” says Chandra Bahadur Khatri, chair of ASK who uses wheelchair exclusively because of his spinal injury.
For the members of ASK-FTG, linkage with FTGN was just a beginning of a new horizon. The ASK members have received training on making decorative accessories using felt and waste paper. These skills were also friendly towards the physical and health condition of the ASK members given their disabilities.
“Marketing is challenging for us, but we have learnt to mix and match beads and crystal and sell in the market. Now that we have learnt to make felt products, we can excel our skills and sell products at a higher price if we get an upgrade in this skill,” said Alok Chaudhary, another producer who also works from his wheelchair because of his spinal injury.
“Disability makes it challenging for us to compete and survive in the market, but beads knitting can be done by sitting in one position”