Women’s Skills Development Organization (WSDO) is considered the best handicraft organization in Pokhara (Nepal), running for over 40 years without any local or international donations. Our handmade Fair Trade products are sold all over the world.
The organization’s history started on the International Women’s Day in 1975, when a group of Nepalese women formed an association, Women’s Skills Development Project, to empower disadvantaged and challenged women – who had no education, were dependent on or abused by their husbands or generally in poor health due to lack of money and other tough realities. The main idea was to train them in skills to make handicrafts. While the association was granted derelict property in Pokhara by the local municipality, there were no official programs or activities at this time.
In 1977, Ram Kali Khadka joined the project and materialized its vision. Training in the traditional arts of sewing, cutting and knitting was provided; educational courses were held; health trainings as well as facilities were provided; in order to raise awareness on women’s rights and also women’s health, advice on family planning and childbirth was offered and counselling to help abused women. Over time, the main focus was on employment opportunities for women so that they could become personally and financially independent.
When democracy was introduced in 1990 in Nepal, many non-governmental organizations focusing on health, education and human rights were established, the women empowerment project started to provide greater employment opportunities, even for disabled and handicapped women, along with high quality, free, vocational skills training.
Due to the increasing interest in, and popularity of, the project and its results, commercial activities started in the early 1990s. In 1994, the Women’s Skills Development Project was formally registered, and became a member of the Fair Trade Group Nepal. In 2002 it joined the International Fair Trade Association (IFTA), now the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO), and with that, customer numbers increased greatly.
Since many people questioned the longevity and monetary support of the Women’s Skills Development “Project”, in 2010 the company changed the last component of its name to “Organization” to ensure its permanence and ability to exist without financial aid.
Recently, WSDO had to give up its established premises. For forty years, the once derelict area had been developed, enhanced and adjusted. In 2015 however, the thriving WSDO was forced to move when the District Development Committee claimed back the once granted government land. After one year of searching, new property was found nearby, but the task to make the company what it was before the relocation had remained a challenge.
This facility first started with an investment of Rs 10,000 and just three working women. Since then, it has faced many challenges and problems. The search for markets where modern, handmade products would sell was difficult, and designing the right products was also very hard. But, the organization has grown steadily with more and more women showing interest in the training and employment offered as well as more customers.
Today, WSDO employs over 550 workers, making a total sale of over $380,000 USD in 2016. We export 80% of our goods, mostly to Japan, China, Taiwan and Korea, but also to Australia, Canada and the United States, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and the United Kingdom. Our employed women are economically disadvantaged, disabled, abused, widowed, divorced, single and outcast. At our empowerment organization they are being trained to be independent and self-supportive. With free vocational skills training and the tools to plan for the future, thousands of women have benefited from WSDO.