In a place where ‘choice’ for many women is defined as either marrying young or being sold to a man in India, this Nepali social enterprise is helping young women demand more.
The air is heavy with clove and cardamom, a sure sign that sweet
masala tea is on the boil. To my left, ginger is being ground to dust by a
five-foot Nepali woman and to my right, a single pot, on an impeccably clean
stove top, looks dangerously close to overflowing.
“Quick! Quick! It’s growing as tall as Mount Everest!” an aproned lady cries as she shoves a wooden spoon in my hand, motioning for me to stir the pot’s contents. Inside is a mountain of bubbling rice pudding: A literal melting pot of thick coconut milk, basmati grains and lashings of love. You see, I’m at the Seven Women center, an NGO based out of Kathmandu, where women’s empowerment is served hot, delicious, and for everyone to share.
Bimala is a feminist in the truest sense. She speaks passionately about equality in her village and women’s rights across wider Nepal, and she tells me that she wants to be a social worker so that she can change the child marriage custom, one girl at a time.
The more I chop and chat with Bimala, Amreeta and Mina, the more I realize that Bilama’s story is a common Nepali narrative. “Breaking society’s cycle can be very difficult, and it takes a lot of courage,” Amrita shares. “We’re trying to change lots of things right now, but we’re doing it all together.”
By the time the dal bhat is ready, the achar is pickled and the masala tea is boiled, I’ve got goosebumps. These young women are fighting for the rights of the next generation of Nepali women. And the Seven Women center is giving them the ammunition to confidently do so, one finance, reading, and English lesson at a time. A recipe for a better life? These women are the proof in the rice pudding.