April 21, 2014

How One Woman Empowered a Village. ~ Donna Sakamoto Crispin

Traditional Nepali Basket

One of the highlights of my recent trip to Kathmandu, Nepal, was a visit with Shyam Badan Shresthra, the managing director of the Nepal Knotcraft Centre.

I was quite honored to meet her.

As a teacher, she was interested in handcrafts. She began her company in 1984, with two other people. In the beginning, they were making and selling macrame items, but gradually started to make baskets.

A traditional Nepali basket (pictured above) is coiled, has many color changes, and takes a long time to make.

Shrethra’s goal was to employ Nepali village women so that they could earn their own incomes, increase their education, and support their families. So, she came up with some alternative designs that weren’t so time consuming, and thus more marketable. Like this one.

Alternative Nepali Basket Design

About one hundred women make baskets and other items for sale. Their products can be found at one of their retail outlets, Ten Thousand Villages.

Shresthra has researched many Nepalese basketry fibers. The baskets from the Knotcraft Centre are all made with local materials. So far, she has found at least 42 plants for basket weaving.

Here are some bamboo baskets.

Bamboo Baskets

Other items include pillows, stools, mats, purses, loom-woven mats and lamp covers, corn husk angels, and more.

I was introduced to items made from papyrus, water hyacinth cord, rush, banana fiber, palm leaves, and many other plants that I was not familiar with.

Shyam Badan Shresthra is an amazing businesswoman with strong social and environmental consciousness. Developing this business has not been an easy journey and there have been many ups and downs throughout the years, but she has weathered them all.

I believe that she is an inspirational figure to us all.


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Apprentice Editor: Brenna Fischer / Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photos: Courtesy of the Author Donna Sakamoto Crispin

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Donna Sakamoto Crispin