Experience from the fashion industry makes a difference in WAWCAS women handicraft

With my 13 years of experience as self-employed in the fashion industry, I have a strong desire to use my knowledge of production techniques and design to contribute to the development of poor women and their children.

By Lis Beck, co-founder/partner of Becksondergaard and co-developer of WAWCAS handicraft.

In January 2015, I was put in contact with Nina and I quickly decided to go with her to Nepal to see and meet the WAWCAS women and the team out there and to form my own impressions of the whole program. Further, the trip would help to provide the necessary knowledge needed about the local fair trade market within handicraft.

The women are discussing the design of a small carpet.

So now that I have been traveling around with Nina, I have seen so much and met so many of those involved in the program; I have met the WAWCAS organization in Kathmandu and Lamjung, I have met potential, new and experienced women from the program, I have seen pigs, goats, small shops and eateries, I have met the local authorities and last, but not least, I have seen a lot of handicraft.

WAWCAS is both larger and smaller than I had imagined. Larger when it comes to the crowd of women, children and men whose lives are changed so radically through the program, and smaller in a practical and organizational sense. I am really impressed with the simplicity of the program and how the daily operations are structured – especially seen in relation to the complexity of Nepal’s political and geographical structure.

But what makes the big difference to me is the approach taken to building cohesion among the women within the groups and the whole idea of entrepreneurship. The fact that the women do not get a job – that they have to start their own business as independent women – but with the group as the new big support in their lives. THAT is sustainable development in my opinion, and I am very happy to be able to contribute to the continued development of that.

Moreover, I realized that there is a sense of intimacy that exists among the women and WAWCAS as an organization; the equal dialogues happening and the fact that there is an opportunity to follow the women and their transformation up close. What matters in the end is ultimately the women themselves, as they are the ones who have to do the work. And having met these women and seen how proud they are – like the woman who started a business with goats who now runs a dance studio and has quite a big knitting business going – gives me so much joy and I am proud to be involved.

Together with Nina and the team in Nepal, I am now in the process of planning how my involvement and support can make the biggest impact, and which handicraft products the women can develop and optimize further.

Lis is looking at carpets woven by women in Lamjung
Lis is looking at carpets woven by women in Lamjung