To have achieved what Kesha Kumari Damini has done in Nepal, as a member of the Dalit caste, is impressive beyond belief. Dalits are considered the lowest caste in Nepal, and are systematically discriminated against. As she began her work to organize micro entrepreneurs throughout the nation, Ms. Damini had to overcome threats and intimidation of a kind nobody should have to face.
Ms. Damini is indomitable, she can’t be stopped. Over 60 thousand micro entrepreneurs in Nepal are now enjoying the benefits of her dedication, which began with a small group comprising herself and a few other women, in the Parbat district, 300 kilometers from Kathmandu.
She realized the power of organization, and encouraged other women to follow the example, in building district and regional groups. These were then organized at the national level, when she formed the National Micro Entrepreneurs Federation Nepal, in 2005.
Ms. Damini promotes entrepreneurship among economically deprived groups, and encourages them to be self-employed and empowered. The organizations provide skills training and support entrepreneurs, particularly women, in starting their own businesses. The cooperatives she has organized have played an important role in helping the Dalits develop a culture of saving, thus decreasing their dependence on village lords for loans.
On the national level, the organizations provide market linkages and sales outlets for the products of micro entrepreneurs, thus reducing the risk of exploitation. The organizations advocate for environmentally sustainable business practices, and also checks such practices by big businesses, holding them to account, if necessary. This promotes the sustainable harvest of raw materials and makes it mandatory to conduct environmental impact screening in all enterprises, from the micro to the macro.
Kesha Kumari Damini’s leadership has inspired many others to become entrepreneurs, explore self-employment opportunities and overcome discrimination. As many families have improved their economic conditions through her initiatives, their health and nutrition have improved, and they have been able to send their children to school.
When faced with seemingly impossible obstacles, Ms. Damini charged ahead, in the knowledge that her initiative would improve the lives of those who followed her example, to the benefits of individuals and society. For her unstoppable spirit and businessworthy example, Kesha Kumari Damini is named a Business for Peace Honouree.