In 2013, in the urban periphery of Kathmandu, Haushala Thapa teamed up with her mother Rupa and sister Samanata to create a unique women's cooperative. As the Founder-Director of the local NGO Children and Youth First, running a boarding school for disadvantaged kids and teens, Haushala sought a way to sustainably support the school while providing opportunities for the students' mothers.
These mothers were battling the societal barriers that come with poverty, socioeconomic marginalisation, and gender inequality. They were also doing everything they could to provide their child with an education and better future. They wanted to play an active role in supporting their child's schooling, and to provide that opportunity sustainably for more children going forward.
From this dedication, the Haushala Cooperative was born. With its namesake being the Nepali word for encouragement, the cooperative set out to encourage women to build social and economic independence together. Based out of a small workspace on the founding family's rooftop, the cooperative began offering free knitting and sewing trainings to all women who were interested in learning a new skill, accessing a safe haven, and building a better tomorrow.
The women at Haushala create beautiful hand-knitted and hand-sewn products, including customized orders. We sell our merchandise in person, on this website, and on Etsy, allowing us to reach customers around the world.
In 2015, we expanded our women's center to become Haushala Creatives: a hub for women to empower, elevate and encourage each other through creativity and community. We opened Nepal's first women's coworking space, where we offer women an affordable desk space and supportive community in our shared office. We also offer private meeting rooms for groups to hire. Our coworking office is also home to the Haushala cooperative's new, expanded workspace.
Additionally, Haushala Creatives serves as a networking hub where women can gain visibility, feedback and support for their businesses, startups, and personal projects. Click here to learn more and get involved!
Our Handmade Process
In stark contrast to the mass manufactured products that line our store shelves and fill our homes, Haushala products are hand-made using timeless traditions that have been passed down among women for hundreds of years. Our name not only symbolizes the encouragement of our female artisans, but it also symbolizes the encouragement of hand-work and the art that goes into making these beautiful products.
The Dhaka collection is one example of a truly indigenous form of expression reflecting Nepali mastery of craftsmanship. Our artisans have developed this line to share Nepali culture with the world through one-of-a-kind adaptations, which combine tradition, style, function, and social impact. This cultural fabric is traditionally hand-woven using a wood or bamboo treadle loom, where a print pattern is formed according to which sections the different color thread is laid down. The Dhaka Topi, a hat made from Dhaka fabric that is a part of Nepali national dress, is considered a very important symbol of Nepali culture and national pride because the pattern embodies a piece of our history, culture, and tradition. In the words of Niraj Karki with ECS Media Nepal:
Dhaka gives me this old romantic impression of Nepal maybe a hundred years ago – and I wasn’t born a hundred years ago so I don’t know – but it is this feeling, an impression of a more and truly cultured Nepal, bearing its own unique, untainted identity, unaffected by the waves of foreign influence in fashion and culture.
Fighting for Gender Equality in Nepal
The caste system and historically regressive gender norms in Nepal have contributed to a system of barriers for women and girls, as well as some of the world's highest educational and economic gender gaps. While women in Nepal contribute to more than 50% of the workforce, this is largely confined to agriculture and the informal sector; both of these sectors are underpaid, making them particularly vulnerable to poverty, poor working conditions, and exploitation. It is common for women to face strong societal pressures to prioritize family commitments over careers.Even if women are able to find and take paid work outside of the home, they often are not in control of the income they earn, with men usually managing the household finances.
Globally, it has been demonstrated that women are catalysts for development. As explained by Melinda Gates, studies have shown that "women spend 90 cents of every dollar they make on their children. They prioritize things like health care, nutritious food, and education. As a result, a child in a household where the mother controls the budget is 20% more likely to survive -- and much more likely to thrive." In addition to creating better lives for themselves and their families, the women at Haushala report feeling a new-found sense of belonging and freedom.
Sustainable Social Impact: Supporting Youth Education
Children and Youth First is a locally-founded, locally-led NGO in Kathmandu Valley. We are a rights-based organization that funds the Life Vision Academy, a safe home and progressive boarding school for 65 underprivileged children from across Nepal. In addition to running our school and Haushala Creatives, our work also includes earthquake relief programs and STEM trainings for disadvantaged children.
At Life Vision Academy, students not only receive a basic education, but they also learn about social justice, the environment, how to think critically, and how to respect one another. We encourage our students to try a variety of extracurricular activities including gardening, photography, carpentry, robotics, trekking, breakdancing, theatre and more. In the home that is Life Vision Academy, CYF is providing direct support to children who are in need and building a stronger generation of Nepali youth.