Within the first few days of my arrival last summer as I wandered in and out of shops along the winding streets of Thamel, Kathmandu’s tourist center, I had the fortune to meet Sanjita. She spends most of her days sitting in 9’ x 14’ shop crammed floor to ceiling with brightly colored knit goods of every imaginable ilk produced at her nearby factory. Through the business she and her brother established, that she now runs, she sells the reassurance of warmth to those heading off to trek in the Himalayas and souvenirs to tourists on their way home, as well as courting relationships with a range of wholesale buyers who frequent Kathmandu en route to stocking the stores and boutiques in Europe, Canada, and the USA.
Hats and scarves in Sanjita’s shop
She is a businesswoman who exemplifies the old school notion of having relationships with her clients, enjoys doing so, and has learned a lot about the world through these contacts – despite never having stepped outside Nepal in any of her 27 years. Her rapid-fire and self-taught broken English, engaging conversation, and good-natured forcefulness regularly lead her customers into spending hours in her small shop drinking tea and sharing their secrets.
Sanjita’s throaty laughs, playful punches, strong opinions, business acumen, and “frankness” (as she puts it) differentiate her from typical expectations of a Nepali woman from an agricultural village with no electricity or running water and a 12th grade education. All of this, combined with her proclamation that I was officially her “Didi” (older sister) left me little choice in the matter of becoming her close friend.
In contrast to her uniqueness in some ways, she is still a Nepali woman, and as typically happens, less than a year after getting married she conceived. I had heard tidbits about birthing in Nepal, particularly in relation to my work with uterine prolapse, and was thrilled at the chance to be close with someone going through the process. Lucky for me, it turned out that Sanjita was due to give birth to her first child within days after my return to Nepal.
Statistically, the birthing picture in Nepal is starkly different from the West. The rate at which women die during childbirth is 281/100,000 in comparison with 10/100,000 in the West. Only 18% of Nepali women give birth in a medical facility, only 23% of women are attended by someone with medical training, and nearly 10% of women give birth in complete isolation, without even a friend or family member to assist them. (Data from Nepal’s 2006 Demographic and Health Survey)
Posted By Nicole Farkhouh ( Uterine Prolapse Alliance)
Posted Jun 24th, 2014