Extended lockdown brings many women entrepreneurs to the brink of failureWomen entrepreneurs are engaged in agriculture, handicraft, hospitality and other service sectors.
Januka Sapkota Parajuli, a reusable cloth pad maker from Kavre has not been able to sell her products worth nearly Rs 600,000 due to the extended lockdown. And with more than 5,000 pads in unsold stock, she is having difficulty paying her workers.
“I had to borrow money from relatives and friends to pay my workers,” she said.
She is also worried about not being able to pay the interest on the Rs 200,000 business loan that she borrowed from a cooperative.
Parajuli represents many women entrepreneurs in the country who are experiencing similar difficulties caused by the spread of coronavirus and the lockdown to stop the spread of infection. Access to finance has always been a huge challenge for women and the loss of sales due to the lockdown is only making things worse.
Most women entrepreneurs in the country are engaged in micro and small businesses, according to the Federation of Women Entrepreneurs Association of Nepal.
According to the Federation, there are 5,000 women entrepreneurs registered with the association, providing jobs for 50,000 people. There are 500,000 self-employed women entrepreneurs in the country. Women entrepreneurs are engaged in agriculture, handicraft, hospitality and other service sectors.
Similarly, Sharada Rijal, former president of the Federation said that women entrepreneurs should start focusing on the domestic market by minimising cost. “The agriculture sector offers the most business potential for women entrepreneurs as it has always been,” said Rijal. The government and private sector should also focus on consuming domestic products and services offered by women entrepreneurs, she said.
The provincial and local level governments should also create a business environment for migrant worker returnees, she said. “This is the perfect time to utilise their skills in helping create jobs and supporting the economy”, added Rijal.
Kamala Shrestha, chairperson of the Women Entrepreneurship Development Committee said that they have been discussing with the government to provide a waiver on bank loan interest and paying worker wages during the lockdown.
According to Shrestha, the lockdown has already impacted beauty salons, a sector which employs nearly 300,000 women. Majority of the beauty parlours have two to three workers on their payroll and due to the lockdown, they are having difficulty paying them.