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Single, Independent and Determined as Ever

Lila Didi’s (sister’s) quaint sewing machine sits against a pale yellow wall with stacks of cloth surrounding it. Her one bedroom cum kitchen space also serves as her workspace where she undertakes independent sewing projects during her free time - like the one she is collaborating with us on! A tailor by profession, Lila Didi’s primary job entails teaching and training other women from her community at Mary Ward School, Lubhu, Lalitpur. She loves her job, but, she says, as the sole breadwinner in a family of three, there isn’t always enough to make ends meet: the reason being why she takes up other projects to get a secondary source of income as well as a means to hone her craftsmanship. 

Originally from Solukhumbu District, Eastern Nepal, Lila Didi is the second eldest child in a family of seven. At the mere age of seventeen, whilst still in the eleventh grade, she was married off to a police officer by her family. Subsequently, she gave birth to two children. 
Unfortunately, her husband passed away six and a half years later; and living with her in-laws became increasingly difficult. Recognizing that she had two children to raise and provide for, she decided to take a bold step: she packed her bags and moved to Kathmandu with her children in 2009. Initially, she stayed at her sister’s, taking up any job that she could come across. She quickly realized that most jobs did not pay well enough and therefore the most optimal option was to do labor work. So, that’s what she engaged herself with for some time.  

The 2015 Nepal Earthquake shook us all to the core. However, for individuals and families like Lila Dee, the aftereffects reverberated for much longer. Post-quake, Lila’s Didi’s financial situation reached to such a state that she contemplated going abroad for work while leaving her children behind. Nonetheless, being a single parent, she eventually ruled out this option. Fortunately, a well-wisher and advisor who is like an elder brother to her, Padam Sundar Dai, from her village, encouraged her to try a hand at sewing. Taking yet another leap of faith, she enrolled herself at the Council for Technical Education and Vocational Training (CTEVT) where she successfully completed Level 1 of her tailoring training. She made a modest start by sewing simpler clothes like Bhoto (traditional Nepali vest) and Daura (upper clothing of the Nepali national attire for men) using the sewing machine that Padam Dai bought for her. The clothes could not be sold for much, but since it was the only way that she could practice her craft, she pushed past all the doubts and insecurities and continued along her path. She is forever grateful to Padam Dai for his selfless help and guidance in enabling her to stand on her own feet; she is also thankful for the sewing machine that she is still using till date.

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Lila Didi doing what she does best

Lila Didi’s next break even caught her by surprise! On what she assumed would be just another routine day, Lila Didi got a call from Mary Ward School, Lubhu, asking her about her occupation. Apparently, her son had mentioned that she was a “Trainer” in her daughter’s school documentation. Soon, she was hired as an Assistant Teacher at the school and together with her lead, she taught Level 1 sewing to young adults working in brick kilns. 

Jump to present day today, she is the Main Teacher at Mary Ward School, Lubhu - responsible for training 16 students on her own. She has completed Level 2 of her CTEVT training and has in the interim, also attempted for the Lok Sewa examinations (Public Service Commission). When asking her what she likes best about her job, she smiles and says: “Once upon a time, I used to call my teachers Ma'am. Now, I feel very happy and proud when my students call me Ma’am and show me the same respect.”

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Lila Didi teaching at Mary Ward School, Lubhu

Her journey to Kathmandu, and the path she paved for herself as a tailor, teacher and a single mother of two are filled with many stories of struggle, pain and loss; yet, it is shaped with even more grit, grace and hope. Her wish is to someday, pen down her stories in the form of a book. Till then, we will continue to admire her positivity and resilience, root for her success, and await her autobiography.  

Thank you Lila Didi, for being a part of our journey here at Tavisi! 🧡

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