ESPA! - by Pia


Woke early and went out to get batteries and a toothbrush :p, very exciting! But the new batteries mean I can now sterilize the water! No plastic water bottles, no sir! And the toothbrush, I can now brush my teeth with some proper toothbrush bristles. Any way I then had breakfast at a BEAU-TIFUL cafe called ‘Delima Garden Cafe’ oh my golly! Everything was really just beautiful, the food, music, garden, waiters, and the lady bug that sat on my book so I could draw, it is HEAVEN! This is where I'll go when I die. As I was drawing the waiter said ‘oh you’re an artist’ hehe flattery... so I have him my silly little lady bug picture and he told me his friend is an artist too, he told me his name but I’m honestly so terrible with names, I guess I’ll just have to go back and ask waa-haha. Then Padam came and got me and we took the computer to EPSA (Entire Power in Social Action)/Seven Women centre! EPSA for the first time! I met a few people, which again, I embarrassingly cannot seem to keep all the names in my head, my efforts of repeating peoples’ names in my head over and over have not helped at all. I remember Sangita's of course- which the centre would not exist without. And Mangal, it was also his first time to EPSA. His just come back from Melbourne where he lived and studied at NMIT for five years – without any financial help from the government I might add, because he was an international student, (Uni students struggle as it is with the government support)! So he worked at Lentils as Anything for $6 an hour! (What an OUT RAGE!) -In-order to afford rent and pay for studies. He worked double shifts, which meant he didn't get home till 2 in the morning, and then he had to be at school at 8am! It’s amazing but a little (a lot) ridiculous there isn’t help there for students studying within Australia (be it where-ever you’ve come from if your living and contributing as an Australian, one should be treated so).

After talking, setting up the computer and drinking sweet tea, everyone left, which meant I got to just talk with Sangita. We talked about how ESPA started, how to begin with; she and a few other women -also with physical disabilities- were making items in a small shed and then they sold them on the street. When Steph became involved they were able to do everything on a broader and larger scale. With more funding they were able to buy; sewing machines, candle set makers, and more/different/quality materials (such as felt), Sangita and the six other women then had the essentials in order to expand; meaning they were able to include more women into the group, women who'd had similar experiences of discrimination; socially and in the work force. Steph also was (and still is) able to add more wonderful and innovative ideas, providing more; patterns and designs for toys, handbags and hats. These crafts, (pieces of useable-art) are now much, much more accessible to buy. They are available to purchase via the internet, which basically means they've gone global(being known is then all that's really needed, and awareness of Seven Women IS being spread). These art/craft/toy/useable items (:p) are now also tangible-ly available in Australia, as Steph brings them back to Aus to sell.

I listened to Sangita talk about her life just before EPSA, I cannot say or write in words how heart renching it is to even just hear what she's had to go through, to live it I cannot possibly know. She finished her bachelor of arts in psychology and teaching, and tried to get a job, but because of the disability of 'one' of her arms, she wasn't hired despite psychology having nothing to do with the physical ability of a person. She got a job as a teacher; however after 21 days the boss (principle) noticed she had a disabled (dislocated) arm and told Sangita she could no longer work there, that the students’ parents would take their children out of the school if they knew about her arm.

The frustration of having studied, having the ability and skills to do a job you love, but refused the opportunity on the grounds of discrimination, is unbearable to even think about, particularly as the next job option available is selling things on the street or cleaning with people you can't really relate or talk to*. Then on top of this you are judged by your family and your village (all the people you've known and grown up with) because they believe that your disability is a result of a past life, and therefore deserved. Sangita is one of the most gentle and caring and obviously strong, women I have ever come across, she may not receive the acknowledgement she deserves but maybe imagine a Mt Everest climber, but well beyond that hike... add a few years more mountain to that, like a life-time Everest! (This is possibly a very terrible analogy, however maybe it works?)

*(Just to add, I’m not putting cleaning or selling item’s one has made on a lower career shelf, I love creating and making cards and selling them! But doing these jobs in Nepal is very, very different than doing so in Australia! To live healthily on the kind of money made from these jobs, particularly in countries like Nepal, is a worse than a bad joke! Nepalese don’t get the government handouts we Australians do, nor are the environment surroundings the same (bigger population condensed together, others in desperate situations, more pollution etc... it’s not a Weekend ‘Salamanca’Market), this is not just about a career difference it’s ones entire life difference -sorry just thought it was important to make that clear).

Sangita said that getting to the ESPA centre is one issue. Public transport in Nepal is crowded, rushed and intense anyway, but being blind, in a wheal-chair, or not having fully functional leg(s), makes getting on at all pretty amazing, it’s a big effort getting to the EPSA centre... however it’s kind’a really worth getting there... EPSA from what I've seen and know so far is simply an amazing empowering women’s movement, one which provides training and skills in all kinds of crafts. It’s also become a community, one which provides social/emotional support as a result of having been through similar experiences of discrimination. Being able to share and support one other also leads to better working and stronger action in going about improving even more women’s lives. This is the life changing stuff I am getting privilege to see.

If more people particularly in Australia, really knew and believed what was going on, they would help, we Australians are so privileged! If only we’d know and believe it... if we did I know we’d so happily share what we have! We just got to got to educate ourselves on the outside-a world!

Tonight I went to Padam's place for dinner, his little brother came and got me from the Hotel, which horribly I can't remember his name, I'm so sorry! People here are so genuinely kind, considerate and lovely, and wow, yep his brother was really sweet as well, his finishing his final exams now. School/education means so much to everyone in Nepal, it's really something to be proud about, and work hard for (shame on us Aussies! Oh shame haha... but seriously). It was thundering as we walked to their house, and then as we took off our shoes to go inside it started pouring, good timing. Padam's room is filled with awards from school and sport, like everywhere! His sore leg is really bothering him because he can't do all the things his used to being able to do :s... although he still seems to do quite a bit. He was trying to teach me Nepalese hehe, I've got some words written down on paper to practice. Their sister cooked an amazingly delicious meal, oh my goodness, proper dal with 'fresh' rice and vegetables, oh my yum! I had to hold myself back from a laughing attack as we were all eating though, his brother was eating with his hands and really enjoying it, slurping away hehe, and Padam was eating with a fork, he told me next time we'll do hands... but the dead silence and pure concentration on the meal with only the sounds of full slurp enjoyment, was just a bit of a cracker, hehe. Then Padam's brother walked me back to the hotel, the rain stopped just as we got outside, just wonderful thunder in the sky was left. I got back where the -so lovely and friendly reception people where there, 'Namaste' :) hehe... I really kind of quite love Nepal.