Indira Sapkota decided to ditch the notions people have about old age and chose instead to become a source of inspiration for teenagers, millennials and elders alike. Her journey started with stitching clothes to contribute to her family financially and today she is a reacognised entrepreneur. Indira Sapkota at 84 years is the Managing Director of AAD Tayari Poshak, President of Bhotu: Indira Social Welfare Organisation, and Founder of Nepali Grihini Udhyog.
“I love working. It makes me forget my age,” says the octagenarian who now has only one wish: to open a factory where she can train more women to become involved and contributing members of society, communities, and peer groups. “I look for quality in work, discipline, commitment, and persistence in people who come to me for training,” she states.
Indira got married at the age of 14 and has four children. The income of her husband which Rs 500 a month barely met the family’s basic needs. “I needed money to fund my children further studies,” recalls Indira. She then started knitting for extra income. An initial investment of Rs 18 taught Indira the knack of business. However, she had to face the patriarchal mindset which had many barriers against a working daughter-in-law.
“But I knew I was doing the right thing, and other people’s opinion didn’t matter,” Indira says.
To support women who were in a similar position, she decided to broaden her scope of work. Money was an impediment. She then sold all her ornaments to collect Rs 50, 000, and with that money and the help of four other women, she founded AAD Tayari Poshak which has trained hundreds of women, including those in prison.
Indira believes that we have a situation in society where either senior citizens stop working after raising a generation or the youth refuse to let their parents work after a certain age because they are afraid of what society would say. She did not believe in either.
“I discovered there is no such thing as generation gap,” she says. She has never stopped working and is always on the lookout for a bright young minds to mentor. “I am still working because I want people to know that working at this age is not a sign of weakness,” she says.
Her office walls are adorned with pictures of her accomplishments. There isn’t an area in which she hasn’t made a contribution. She has been an active member of the Gokarneshwor Municipality’s Community School where she financially assists disadvantaged children and works to provide education to women in prison.
Indira claims there is still much to be done to see real change. Despite her years of experience in breaking gender barriers and fighting patriarchy, despite the honours and the accolades, she is disheartened that after seeing so many political changes over the years, the situation of women has not much improved.
She went to the ward office to propose that each ward open a local Nepali garment shop where women can make and sell clothes. “This way we can empower women while also ensuring that our Nepali goods find market. But no one was interested in the idea,” she says with a heavy heart.
Indira talks about the views of two politicians, “Ganesh Man Singh who used to say that Nepali people are easily manipulated, they believe whatever you show them, and Manmohan Adhikari who used to say Hamro Gau, Hami Banau”. She says with a sigh, “We could have this self sufficient nation, but we are struggling to sustain livelihoods and have devolved to become total parasites. This breaks my heart”.