How Shanti's Perspective is Helping Others
"You've mentored me to grow as an entrepreneur and also a leader. I will always remain indebted to the mentors from CHOICE."
In Thaha Municipality of Nepal, a rural community of small farmers has a new local leader that they trust. Shanti BK, a 37-year old woman, wife, and mother to three children, was elected to the municipal council in May of 2022. Though it isn't easy to balance responsibilities between her family, her civic role, and her business—their household operation produces agricultural tools, raises cattle, and grows vegetables—she feels she is able to balance it well.
In fact, Shanti's first-hand experience as an entrepreneur running her own business helps her bring a valuable perspective to the council. During fiscal planning, she advocated for other small business owners like her. "I will keep helping the Municipality understand the important roles of small businesses being run at the family level," she said, "and the roles they have played in reducing the poverty. I urge that the municipal plans and policies should reflect the aspirations of the SME owners."
Shanti was one of many community members to participate in CHOICE Humanitarian's mentoring program. Farming is a common occupation in rural Nepal; however, most individuals do not get the financial and technical assistance they need for their farming businesses to truly provide a path out of poverty. Additionally, the procedure for small farmers to access loans from the bank is long and difficult. Interest rates are prohibitively high, documentation is required that most farmers cannot provide, and there is no technical support available to assist with this process.
CHOICE's mentoring program was able to address several of these challenges by offering business training, technical assistance, and hassle-free loans. Shanti explained that CHOICE has "been teaching very small but very powerful principles to the entrepreneurs." This is crucial for improving business, and participating entrepreneurs have gained confidence.
In a virtuous cycle, the training that Shanti received through mentoring helped her into her municipality council role. She grew her skills in organizing information and presenting her ideas in the group, and it was also an opportunity for the community to build trust in her.
As an elected leader, Shanti can continue to utilize the skills she gained in CHOICE's mentoring program to support her fellow community members in their small business needs. Whether it's providing recommendations to replace costly chemical fertilizer with organic fertilizer or researching the market where small farmers can sell products, she is a "positive deviation" that is having a ripple effect on her community.
When thinking on what she appreciates about her experience, Shanti said this: "We the entrepreneurs have a feeling that there is CHOICE, which is constantly helping us and wants us improve our lives."