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Oct 02nd
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Home Global Activities Asia Tzu Chi Sewing Classes Nurture Women’s Dreams in Lumbini, Nepal

Tzu Chi Sewing Classes Nurture Women’s Dreams in Lumbini, Nepal

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"I plan to become a tailor in the future," said Sajina Khatu, a young woman with thick eyebrows and big eyes, exuding confidence and happiness in learning to sew. "Because I can wear clothes that I sew myself."

In Nepal, most women live in poor households; since the country is landlocked, job opportunities are limited. The sewing vocational training center opened by Tzu Chi provides women with a pathway to economic independence.

Provide Vocational Training

The sewing class opened officially on October 17, 2022, at the back of Tzu Chi Nepal's office. The sound of sewing machines humming in a converted storage room, under the earnest guidance of teacher Puja Khadka, reflects the desire of these Nepalese women to move up in the world.

Since October, Dhundup Lama, cousin of Bhikkhu Maitri, has donated three sewing machines, which were repaired and made operational, in addition to the seven existing ones. That makes a total of ten machines available to teach the students.

Despite the students' eagerness to learn, some of the 14 initial students were unable to pass the upgrade test. After talking with Tzu Chi volunteers and teacher Puja, those who could not keep pace were allowed to remain in the beginners’ class; those students who qualified  were promoted to the intermediate class. As students advanced, vacancies opened in the beginner’s class; six women from the village were invited to participate in the vocational training by Tzu Chi volunteer Manoj Dhawal.

Livelihood Opportunities

After acquiring their new skills, most students remain at home, sewing clothes for their families. Some tell their neighbors that they could sew clothes; the neighbors provide them with work. However, some poorer women who could not afford a sewing machine slowly lose their livelihood after graduation -- this is regrettable.

In addition to providing vocational education to students, Tzu Chi also seeks to find opportunities for them to earn a living after graduation. Every year the Foundation spends money to purchase materials such as school uniforms, pencil cases, and backpacks to distribute to the students. These items can be used by village women to sew and earn money, providing them with work opportunities. Tzu Chi can both obtain supplies and enable women to earn money, killing two birds with one stone.

In this way, not only can women achieve economic independence, but  can also find confidence in themselves. In addition, Tzu Chi plans to gradually cultivate female business managers, teaching them how to manage small companies, and cultivate long-term leadership talent.

Helping Students Become Self-Reliant

Puja Khadka, the inspiration of the sewing class, has 11 years of teaching experience and is a teacher for Tzu Chi's work-for-relief program. She hopes to teach her students a useful skill they can use to sew clothes for their families and earn income. "Sewing skills can be used for a lifetime," she said.

Puja's connection to Tzu Chi came through her husband Ramesh. Ramesh was a cameraman for "Bodhi TV". He livestreamed the recitation of scriptures by the abbot of the Mahabodhi Temple at 6 a.m. every morning, as well as the scenery of the Mayadevi Temple in the evening. When Tzu Chi arrived in Lumbini, Ramesh began filming Tzu Chi's activities and learned that it was starting a sewing class. He immediately contacted his wife Puja, who was teaching sewing in Kathmandu.

On July 18, 2022, Tzu Chi volunteers and CLC community coordinator Manoj met Puja online via video conference. After learning of the environment in Lumbini and discussing the philosophy of the sewing class with Manoj, Puja immediately expressed her willingness to take on the role of instructor.

Puja, who comes from a remote rural area, decided to study sewing the day after her 10th grade exams. After mastering the skill, she was able to support herself and complete her university education without her family's financial assistance. "Learning to sew changed my life, and I haven't needed to ask my family for money since then," she said. Puja hopes to share her experience of independence and self-reliance with more women by teaching them sewing skills.


Expectations for the Future

By April 2023, there were 19 students attending vocational training, all  coming to learn sewing. Most come from nearby villages about a kilometer away. Since there are no buses, and most do not have bicycles, they often have to walk to class; sometimes this makes them late. However, they have never missed a class. After several months of learning, six of the students are already capable of drawing patterns, cutting, and sewing.

Poojia Dhawal, 18 years old, dropped out of school after completing the 10th grade and is now awaiting marriage. Her family is in financial difficulties; she learned that sewing skills could increase her income and thus enrolled in vocational training. She is currently learning how to hem, sew pants, and make shirts.



There is a small sewing machine at her home, suitable for sewing thin fabrics. Poojia feels that learning sewing skills can help her family and also enable her to open a tailor shop after getting married. "In addition to learning sewing, I also want to learn how to make handicrafts such as dolls, and study beauty," she said. Acquiring a skill has filled Poojia with hope for her future and has helped her create a blueprint for her life.

Another student, Sakuntala Gupta,19, comes from a relatively well-off family who owns a grocery store. She also knows how to make dough for restaurants. Her younger brother promised to buy her a sewing machine once she graduates from the sewing program.

Sakuntala Gupta said: "I won't work outside because my parents won't allow girls to work outside. I also don't want to get married too early because I hope to learn more livelihood skills before making any marriage plans." With dreams come courage; for Sakuntala, the traditional way of entering marriage for financial security is no longer the top priority.


Bright Future

In the sewing classroom, the students were focused and occasionally exchanged tips and discussed issues. Teacher Puja walked around between the sewing machines, understanding the problems the students were encountering, and guiding them step by step in the hope that they could learn sewing skills as quickly as possible.

Anita Bhooj, a mother of two children who lives about one kilometer away from the Tzu Chi center, learned about Tzu Chi's sewing class through her neighbors and decided to enroll. Over several months, she learned how to use a sewing machine, cut fabric, sew edges, and even make traditional Nepalese clothing. Anita was very dedicated and attentive to her studies; under the guidance of teacher Puja Khadka, she carefully drew out the pattern for a pair of pants on the fabric.

"When I first came here, I didn't even know how to use sewing scissors, but now I can follow the teacher's instructions to draw clothes patterns on the fabric and cut them out with scissors. I really enjoy learning here," said Anita Bhooj. Actually, she never thought about learning sewing before. She got married at the age of sixteen according to her parents' wishes; after marriage, she was busy with household chores and taking care of her children every day, with no time to learn a skill.

"After learning how to make clothes, I can now sew clothes for my mother-in-law, parents, husband, and children. I can also help my neighbors and earn some income. If I have the opportunity in the future, I hope to open a small sewing shop." Anita's joy came step by step through learning, bringing a vision she had never thought possible before.

"Nowadays, the students' skills are pretty good. When they first came, they didn't know how to use scissors or sewing machines very well," recalled teacher Puja. "After a few months of learning, they have improved a lot. The students are eager to learn, and I hope they will continue to learn this craft well."

Teacher Puja used to be just like her students. Now, as a mentor with a compassionate heart, she hopes her students can learn the skills and have a trade to secure their future.


A Jing Si Aphorism says: “The more you do and learn, the more you can do and gain.”

Join Tzu Chi. Let us make a better place for the world.


Story by Cui-Lian Lin and Ya-Hui Shen

【News】Tzu Chi in The World

" Do not underestimate yourself; everyone has unlimited potential. "
Jing-Si Aphorism

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