Married at age 15 and illiterate, Phirli Chaudhary of rural Nepal had three children with an alcoholic husband.
Phirli had to ask her husband for permission if she wanted to leave her home for anything other than child care or farm work.
It was difficult to feed and buy school supplies for their three children – even working full time: Phirli as a domestic helper, and her husband in construction. With no savings, they had no security for the future.
Phirli’s husband used to fight with her about their economic difficulties after coming home from work. This was a major cause of stress and disagreement, and she felt he had no respect for her.
Phirli sought refuge in her local READ Center, where she joined a savings cooperative. She started saving money there, and took out a loan to buy four piglets.
For seven months, she raised the piglets to be healthy adults. She then sold them, earning a profit of more than $1,000 – a large amount in rural Nepal. With the profit, she paid back her loan, and purchased two cows to sell milk for a more stable income.
Because Phirli was illiterate, she could not read signs or do basic calculations to help with her business. When she sold milk at the market, she had to take her children to help her count money and give change. Empowered to learn more, Phirli joined a literacy class at the READ Center.
The literacy and numeracy skills that she gained helped her sell her milk at the market without help, and track her savings through an account booklet.
Phirli also took trainings in mushroom farming, and learned how to make mineral blocks to improve the health of her cows, and how to create homemade organic pesticides to protect her mushrooms and other crops.
Phirli learned about the health effects of alcoholism at the Center, and shared it with her husband. Since then, he has stopped drinking and says he has gained a lot of respect for her because she provides income to the family.
Today, Phirli is a changed woman. She can read and write, and sells enough milk and mushrooms to send her two daughters to the local college. She wants to expand her milk business and finish building her new home.
“Over the past few years, I learned that if you have desire and passion to learn new things, you can do anything,” says Phirli.