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Small women-led business in Nepal emerges to fill gap in the market for domestically produced eco-friendly sanitary products

Eco Voice
Eco Voice
First published in 2003, Eco Voice is your go-to publication for sustainability news in Australia. Eco Voice prides itself as an independent news platform with a clear focus on sustainability, with articles coming from a diverse range of contributors – all levels of government, corporations, not-for-profits, community groups, small to medium sized businesses, universities, research organisations, together with input from international sources. Eco Voice values community, conservation and commerce. Eco Voice is a media partner of the prestigious Australian Banksia Sustainability Awards – The Peak Sustainability Awards.

Shristi Shrestha, a female entrepreneur who sells Aba Dhukka sanitary pads, poses for a portrait next to her product at the “Advocacy Policy Dialogue-Climate Change Resilience.” Expo on April 1, 2024 in Kathmandu, Nepal. The Federation of Women Entrepreneurs Association Nepal (FWEAN) partners, who partners with UN ESCAP, hosts an expo titled “Advocacy Policy Dialogue-Climate Change Resilience.” FWEAN aims to enhance climate resilience among micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), focusing on improving access to finance for women entrepreneurs and fostering a climate-friendly business environment. ESCAP’s support includes awareness-raising, training on climate risks, seed funding for women-led green businesses, and facilitating connections between women-led MSMEs and financial service providers.
Photo credit: ESCAP Photo/Lauren De Cicca

Link to YouTube video:

Author: Christina Morrison, ESCAP Consultant

For Shristi Shrestha, in addition to the challenges of registering her business and accessing finance, a major challenge she has had to overcome as a woman entrepreneur has been that of societal  expectations and competing demands on her time. “As a woman, especially in my culture, domestic labour is part of our job, no matter what our work is outside of the home. As women, we have to develop a superpower when it comes to time management, juggling our household responsibilities with work,” she shares.

Shristi embarked on her entrepreneurial journey two years ago, inspired by a vision of supporting women and protecting the environment while promoting localised production. Shristi became aware that almost all sanitary pad products available in Nepal are produced abroad, with 80 per cent of the market dominated by foreign imports. Moreover, there are no affordable eco-friendly products available.

Seizing the opportunity to fill this gap in the market, following a year of research and careful consideration, Shristi and her fellow female business partner purchased a machine with support from a local NGO and started producing their own biodegradable sanitary pads. With limited funding available, most of which was sourced from friends and family, and with minimal marketing or business experience, Shristi and her partner started small, selling their products to friends and using newspaper as packaging.

When Shristi was connected with the Federation of Woman Entrepreneurs’ Associations of Nepal (FWEAN), she was empowered to think bigger. Shristi is among eight women entrepreneurs who received seed funding and training through an initiative to support green women-led micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) implemented by FWEAN in partnership with ESCAP’s Catalyzing Women’s Entrepreneurship programme. The objective of the partnership is to build the resilience of women-led MSMEs in Nepal, improving women entrepreneurs’ access to finance and creating an enabling environment for climate friendly women-led businesses.

Shristi received comprehensive training on climate risk adaptation and business continuity planning from FWEAN, as well as support with marketing and packaging. With the seed funding that Srishti received, she was able to purchase more raw materials, enabling her to expand production. The ambitious entrepreneur is now in a position to grow her business, with a small team of women employees behind her supporting with production and packaging. Through the FWEAN-ESCAP initiative, Shristi had the opportunity to present her product at FWEAN’s 7th International Women’s Trade Expo, along with the other green women-led businesses that received training and seed funding.

In spite of the demands posed by her care and household responsibilities, Shristi is determined to continue to grow her business as the only eco-friendly Nepalese sanitary product currently available. Through her product, she aspires to shape the market and gradually reduce Nepal’s reliance on imported sanitary products, providing the alternative of a locally produced waste-free product that is affordable for all women throughout Nepal.

Since 2018, the Catalyzing Women’s Entrepreneurship programme, with funding from Global Affairs Canada, has mobilized over US$90 million in capital for women-owned and led businesses, and directly supported over 200,000 women entrepreneurs such as Shristi through access to finance and enhanced skills to grow their businesses.


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