Monday, 26 February, 2024

Single, Older Women Wick Making Generates Income


Indira Aryal


At 74, Ananda Maya Karmacharya  of Lulakchhe of Bhaktapur Municipality Ward No.5 is busy spinning wicks used for lighting the traditional oil-fed lamps (diyos) which are utilised as offerings to the deities.
Wicks are popular among the people having an penchant for religious activities. Wick lamps are lighted in all religious rituals by the Hindus. With people interested in kindling hundred-thousand wick lamps at certain religious shrines, the hand-made wicks are in demand.
She can spin at least 1000 pieces of cotton wick in a day. She receives the payment as per the numbers of wicks she makes in a month.
For a single woman like Dibyashori Munakarmi, aged 65, spinning the wick from cotton has worked as a therapy to take care of her mental illness. Nowadays, she looks fresh and motivated as she has something to do with the earnings she makes for herself.
Every day, from 10 a.m. onwards, a group of senior women, including a few single women, gathers in a small room at Lulakchhe for making wicks by their hands.
At least 20 women, from 70 to 85 years old, join together at an office room set by Prerenadayi Sahayogi Samuha (Inspirational Helping Group), a group formed by five women activists to help older and single women to engage in some productive and income-generating works.
This was a new beginning for these senior citizens in the locality that is aimed at supporting their livelihood as well as providing a common platform, where they gather and to share their feelings with like-minded peers.
Karmacharya said before joining the group she spent her time basking in the sun and staring at the nearby areas from her window.
Likewise, another lady, Munakarmi, had suffered from mental illness.  Being a single and unmarried lady, she was backbitten and had nowhere to go. Now engaging in this work at the old age, the wicks making has helped develop her confidence, she said.
These women talk and laugh the whole day like there are nothing and no one to stop them. Despite having women from different castes, they do not discriminate anyone. They stay and eat together in a small room.
  The idea to support the older women came to Laxmi Awal after observing the older and single women staying at home but was felt like a burden to the family members. Laxmi Awal, a social activist and founding member of the Samuha said, “Older women are more vulnerable to financial difficulties than older men. Most of them have no employment and they are the victims of family circumstances which often make unable to save money. The spinning of wicks has allowed them to save at least Rs. 2,000 to Rs. 3,000 per month, which have encouraged them.”
These senior citizens are provided with a lunch pack in the afternoon free of cost and cotton to spin the wick for the past three years.
But the Covid-19 pandemic had affected the sales of the product. A few senior citizens had joined the Samuha in the new normal situation. 
According to Awal, they are looking for some kindhearted people, who can buy the products and help older women engage more in such activities. “We are about to close the hub as we do not have any buyers. Sometimes we give them a salary from our pockets. That is not possible all the time. We even have to pay office rent and salary to our staffs who cook snacks for the older women.”
Like Munakarmi and Karmacharya, everyone participating in the wick-making business at the Samuha shares similar stories. They shared their stories the whole day and returned to their homes with smiling faces. Engaging older women at our community is a promising practice tool, Awal said.
The group also employed abandoned and single women for sewing newborn baby clothes and making baby mattresses with an aim that none of the women in the community should remain jobless and abandoned.
Some women produced organic soaps while others make wicks, garments for newborns and some produce food items for would-be and new mothers.
Recently, they have also started a shop “Matri Shisu Prasuti Samagri Pasal” in Bhaktapur to sell the products produced by the women. 
According to Awal, the group also wants to create such a hub in every ward to engage older women and single women and to give a message that women at any age and any condition could contribute to society if they get a chance.

(Aryal is a TRN correspondent)