Quiet and shy, Remati is one of the 16 women selected to work at the Amma Café, a women-led enterprise financed by the World Bank’s Buddhist Circuit Program in South Asia. To support poor women entrepreneurs in the Greater Lumbini Area, the Program is financing the adaptive reuse of a pavilion inside the Lumbini World Heritage Site that belongs to the Lumbini Development Trust.
The Bank is also preparing the future baristas, who live in one of the poorest nearby villages located about two km from the site. Before addressing their lack of experience in hospitality and restaurant management, Renmati and other 11 women requested support in literacy, communication and Nepali since most of them speak Tharu. Daily classes have been organized for them to learn to read, write, speak Nepali and do basic math.
With conservative attitudes persistent in the area, the women have been given very few opportunities to work outside their homes. To boost their confidence, improve their communication skills, and instill a sense of autonomy necessary to manage a social enterprise in a site that receives about 15,000 visitors a day, in addition to formal training, the Bank team engaged them in a food preference survey and the finalization of the Café’s menu.
The future baristas exceeded all expectations. Talking, smiling and communicating with all passersby irrespective of gender, age and nationality, the pure delight on their faces was contagious as they explained to visitors about ”their” Café and sought their suggestions on the menu. By the end of the weeklong survey, Renmati shared the many conversations she had: “I want to learn more about interacting with visitors! I think it will also help with my Nepali.”
There is nothing more empowering than a woman, who seizes the opportunity to go out of her comfort zone and constraints to make a difference for herself and her community.