Learning by doingMore often than not, thinking of a plumber or an electrician conjures up images of a man on the job. Almost all carpentry shops and motorcycle service centres across the country have an all-male workforce.
More often than not, thinking of a plumber or an electrician conjures up images of a man on the job. Almost all carpentry shops and motorcycle service centres across the country have an all-male workforce. Even at home, it’s the men who take up the task of dismantling and assembling pieces of furniture and making sure electrical appliances are in place and functioning. This is the way it’s been done for so long that it might even seem natural, tools and hardware are synonymous with masculinity and it seems it has always been a man’s job to fix things.
“There are many things that women across the world are discouraged from doing and using tools is among them,” says Priya Joshi, who, in 2015, co-founded #MakerKT, an organisation that advocates a ‘maker’ culture for women. “Women are daunted by just the idea of picking up a tool.”
A maker culture advocates the use of hardware and tools to create new things while tinkering with existing ones. It takes after a ‘do-it-yourself’ (DIY) aesthetic and advocates for an arts-and-crafts approach. Joshi, though, is specifically interested in getting women involved in endeavours like woodwork and metalwork, most of which have long been the exclusive province of men.
“Give a woman the right tools, teach her how to use them and see how she glows with independence when she puts her skills to use,” says Joshi.
And it is thanks to women like her that things are changing.
In 2015, Priya had already quit her job as a wildlife researcher and conservationist to teach at Karkhana, an education company and makerspace for children. There, she was creating and conducting Life Science-related classes for kids. It was her colleague, and Karkhana founder, Sakar Pudasaini, who sparked the idea of designing a workshop for women, instead of children, for a change. For Joshi
and #MakerKT co-founder Samana Shrestha, it was the start of something brilliant.
“We immediately knew it was a good idea, but we didn’t know how important it would be until we completed a five-week workshop,” says Joshi. “We didn’t realise the one-off workshop would turn into a regular thing. One workshop led to another and #MakerKT became a community that sparked a maker culture in women.”
The first #MakerKT workshop was conducted in June-July of 2015, in the fresh rubble of the earthquakes with participants who ranged from 19 to 32 years of age. The workshop was a safe and comfortable space for women to learn and share a variety of DIY skills that ranged from carpentry to basic coding and designing. At the end of the workshop, the participants had developed a love affair with tools and hardware—they were finally making things they wanted.
Bhintuna Jyapoo, the founder of Bhav, a creative stationery brand, had built herself three shelves. “They made up the first batch of furniture that ever stood in my shop,” says Jyapoo. “The workshop came at a time when DIY-culture was still low key in Nepal. And it was wonderful to meet women who had come together to create something, anything, while helping others do the same.”
Ever since then, #MakerKT’s community has grown to more than a hundred members who’ve gone on to design more than 20 workshops that ranged from bicycle and motorcycle repair and maintenance to home electrical workshop, from jewellery to brassiere design, from welding to crochet, and from app building to intensive coding and programming.
The #MakerKT philosophy
“We want women to let their guards down, get out of their comfort zones, and go against the grain to share ideas, tools and skill sets they initially didn’t believe was meant for them,” says Joshi.
But to get there, it’s important to find women facilitators as seeing other women creating and tinkering around can inspire them to do the same and believe in their own capability, says Joshi. #MakerKT, however, doesn’t limit its workshops to the use of power tools and machinery. For Joshi, the work our mothers, grandmothers and generations of women before them were makers—the achaars they make, the sweaters they knit, the decorative pillows they crochete, all speak volumes about what ‘making’ is.
#MakerKT is about reclaiming the word ‘maker’ and embracing it as a tool of independence and empowerment.
“The whole maker movement I experienced through #MakerKT has deeply touched my life,” says Gunjan Dixit, co-founder of Katha Ghera, in a testimonial. “I don’t consider myself inferior and believe that if I truly want to fix things, I can, by learning. #MakerKT has boosted my confidence to try and fix problems (literal and metaphorical) on my own.”
It’s also very important for #MakerKT that all workshops are affordable and accessible. The workshops are spread across the week in a way that working women and students can manage their time to dedicate their energies to the programme, and always come with a nominal fee.
“The registration fee only ever covers up the cost of designing and conducting the workshop,” says Joshi. If necessary, #MakerKT also provides the workshops at a discount for those who want to participate but can’t afford to. As of now there is no profit.
“Affordability doesn’t always translate to sustainability and that’s one thing we are currently working on—how to make the workshops affordable but also explore other aspects that help us become sustainable,” says Joshi.
What’s in the pipeline
With Joshi busy with her 11-month-old baby, and Shrestha abroad, #MakerKT workshops might be few and far between for a year or more to come. However, none of this has hindered the organisation from creating the impact it intends to make. In 2018, from July to September, #MakerKT organised an Intensive Coding and Programming workshop for teachers at Rato Bangala.
“Teachers who had never coded before made a dress that glowed on the basis of sensor readings,” shares Joshi. “The programme was conducted in order to make teachers comfortable with tech so that they can incorporate it in their teaching and help them guide their students in the school’s makerspace.”
In 2019, Joshi is going to be conducting The Fifty-For-Ten Project, under Art Aid Nepal, a non-profit project within #MakerKT, to provide STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math)-driven art workshops for 10 public schools around the Valley. What’s also in pipeline is the second iteration of the SheEO series, where young female entrepreneurs are equipped with vital practical skills to make their ventures more successful.
Besides organising workshops for its organic community and clients, #MakerKT also wants to create a makerspace of its own in the days to come. “It’s important to have a space of our own—a feel-good space that brings out the best of curiosity and positivity in women,” says Joshi.