Traditional Women Entrepreneurs – Carving an Identity of their Own


Investment Summit – Foreign Policy FDI

Government of Nepal and several I/NGOS are working in several part of the country for women empowerment. Many women entrepreneurs are thus emerging to stand financially independent. The newly emerged and established women entrepreneurs come to the fore while traditional women entrepreneurs get overshadowed. Traditional women entrepreneurs run their small mobile businesses supported by their families and relatives and choose in turn to support their family financially.The businesses they run have created an identity on their own and are easily recognizable by their jobs like ‘Churhiniya’, who sells bangles, ‘Bishtiniya’, who sell cosmetic products, and ‘Baniniya’, who sell groceries. These business have become a tradition for women as they have been carrying the work forward, from one generation to another.

The government of Nepal launched Women Entrepreneur Development Fund under Ministry of Industry to help women entrepreneurs meet their financial need for their enterprise growth.1It has been helping women in income generation and running up micro-scale industries by providing loan without any collaterals and with a very small interest2, through which interested women are benefited. Similarly, several women empowerment organizations are launching other sustenance programs to support the women in generating income. UNDP Report-An Analogy of Successful Entrepreneurs (2018) documented stories of 108 entrepreneurs benefitted by the Program WEDP3 which helped a huge number of women.

However traditional women entrepreneurs do not know about this fund and the sustenance programs that are being run and are deprived of the facilities other entrepreneurs are receiving. Amina Khatun4, resident of Banganga Municipality of Kapilvastu districts is one of them. She was inspired by her sister-in-law, who has been selling bangles for a living since more than a decade. Khatun says, “We never get to know about these kinds of facilities. Yes, we want to expand our business but we have to spend the money we earn and it is not enough to invest in our work.”For her, government facilities are far beyond their reach. “Does the government really help to invest and expand our business,” she asked.


  1. NeedikaAdhikari, ( Nepal Government Helping Women Entrepreneurs with Loan, October 27, 2017)
  2. ibid
  3. Analogy of  successful entrepreneurs benefitted by the Program Women Entrepreneur Development Program , UNDP Report 2018
  4. Amina Khatun, resident of Bhadsadwa ,Banganga Municipality, KapilvastuThough

Though her business depends on season and occasion, her business of selling bangles and cosmetic products has been a good income source for her family. Amina Khatun says, “We make good amount of money, somewhere around five thousands a day.” Sometimes they are specifically called during family occasions and celebrations. Similarly, during the big festivals and local celebrations, their demand gets high as almost every women from the community and villages buy bangles. In a different perspective, they are making bangles available for every woman in villages, especially where women value wearing bangles. “People also call me to their homes at times,” says Khatun.

Rihana Khatun, daughter-in-law of Amina Khatun, assists her mother in law in this business. They together reach out to places. Aminas’s husband and sons are doing their own business and are supportive of the extra income the women generate from their mobile entrepreneurship. Amina says, “We go out together to the villages, and I hope Rihana will take this business further, even after I am not here.” Similarly, Rihana Khatun says, “It is easy for both of us and we manage to finish the work soon.” Both of them go to villages with baskets on their heads and help women wear bangles which they sell. Amina shared that this business is helping her to run the family. “At least, as other women, we don’t have to ask our men for every penny to buy oil and salt.”

As festivals benefit her business, cultural beliefs and taboos also affect the business. Amina Khatun says, “During Kharwas5, nobody wears new bangles so, during the time we never go to sell bangles.”

“We obviously want to expand our business, and take it to local markets, but we don’t have the budget needed to do it. There is no one to take us to market also, but we are satisfied that we are now recognized by our business rather by our husbands and family.”

Traditional women entrepreneurs like Amina Khatun and Rihana Khatun represent those innumerable women who run their own small businesses like selling bangles, cosmetics, and vegetables. They are not only making money and helping the family financially but have also created their own identity as entrepreneurs. Though entrepreneur may be a big word for them but they are recognized by their work as Churhiniya, Bistiniya, and Baniniya.

These traditional women entrepreneurs have broken the gender stereotype and have been able to sustain their business, earn their identity, and be financially independent. Though their stories do not come out for all to read, they are upholding their traditional business.


5. Kharwas takes place once a year when no auspicious activities are performed

The program launched by Ministry of Industry, Women Entrepreneurs Development Fundand skills building training by I/NGOs like UNDP, ICIMOD do not reach these traditional entrepreneurs, who need these help the most.The monetary fund and entrepreneurship training would help their small business to expand and so the respective bodies should plan to reach to them and design programs aiming these entrepreneurs.

Author: Srijana Chaudhary


This is an article is based on a telephonic conversation with Amina Khatun on Monday, 18 March 2019

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