MAHILA SHAKTI HANDICRAFT WORKSHOP
“Soap that grows on trees and changes lives”
The “Mahila Shakti” meaning “women’s power” in Nepali Language. The handicrafts produced in our workshop are made by local women who are impoverished or come from difficult backgrounds. Some have suffered from leprosy and still live with the stigma associated with the disease, making it difficult for them to find work. KRMEF is happy to provide an employment program for them, which allows them the opportunity to earn a living and develop valuable technical skills. Now we are very happy to announce that our workshop has been certified by Fair Trade Group Nepal (FTGN).
Soapnuts are grown and have been sustainably harvested in Nepal for centuries. The sticky brown shell contains saponin, a natural and environmentally friendly detergent which is allergy free and perfect for babies, eczema and sensitive skin. Once refined, the soap can be used as laundry detergent, for washing dishes, and as liquid hand soap. During harvesting, the soapnut’s shiny black seed is separated from the shell. The seeds are dried and designed into beautiful jewelry pieces that are sold at a farmer’s market in Kathmandu. The profits from these sales go to replenishing the handicrafts supplies as well as supporting other programs at KRMEF.
We try to find regenerative ways to use waste products and local plants. In addition to soapnut jewelry, we use recycled plastics to weave intricate colorful baskets, create drinking cups from waste glass bottles, and weave our own reusable tote bags from material produced at the foundation on a loom.
The handicraft program has started expanding to an international market. Leela traveled to Thailand to display and sell the jewelry at a festival for Nepalese entrepreneurs. There are also friends in Switzerland and Germany who are helping selling some of the handicraft goods, helping to support the growing economy for the foundation ultimately for Nepal. Our handicraft program is currently collaborating with 5 other local entrepreneurs to sell goods in a local store in Kathmandu. With each step forward, the workshop looks for additional ways to use reusable materials like the newly designed earrings using tire rubber. We hope to establish an online marketing and shopping catalogue in the future to better reach our friends and supporters abroad. Our Fair Trade certification process is ongoing.