Thanks to Mahabir Pun’s efforts, many village women in Nangi now have a sustainable income to help support their families. It is difficult for westerners to imagine the impact that bringing an additional $2.00/day can make on a family’s well-being: it is the difference between having enough money for a few extra things at the local ‘shop’ for the kids, an occasional chicken from traveling salespersons, or a festive new sari for a special occasion.
Over the last four years, the women have had several trainings focusing on how to construct diaries which are made entirely from handmade paper and how to trim the books so that they are appealing to western markets. Initially the diaries were transported by tourists but finally this year we were successful in shipping 252 diaries from Nepal to the US.
They are made 100% from the Lokta tree, unlike most other hand made paper that is a mix of ingredients. The bark from the Lokta tree is renewable so cutting off the branches and stripping the bark only results in more branches sprouting from the shrub. The women have also began developing local dyes made from the walnut tree. The process is detailed and time-consuming: harvesting the plant, pealing the soft outer bark from the wooden stack, finely separating the strands of each piece of bark, soaking, cooking, and pulverizing the material until it is the consistency of mushy, wet paper, and then getting the diluted paper mixture onto frames for drying in the sun. Finally, the finished paper! Making the diaries themselves consists of cutting, pasting, and sewing.
The Himanchal Educational Foundation is selling these 70 page diaries for $15.00. Please email Jane Sabin-Davis at jane-at-himanchal-dot-org if you are interested in supporting the women of Nangi village.