In rural Nepal 81 per cent of women are victims of domestic violence. Nepal is home to the world’s tallest mountain, Everest.

In Nepal, widows are termed bokshi and are cast out as witches. Nepal boasts one of the most beautiful expanses of nature in the world.

In Nepal, a woman is raped once every 54 minutes. In this country of immense beauty and natural wonders, this behaviour is accepted.

But these travesties of human decency are not accepted by the Women’s Foundation which was established in 1988. It founded a shelter for abused women and their children, offered counselling, education and legal and human rights representation.

The foundation also founded a business arm, a cooperative.

The Maheela cooperative – its official name is Sakriya Adharshila Multy Purpose Cooperative – trains women in the traditional arts of textile making. Maheela’s woven products are sold around the world and the members receive a 20 per cent profit share as well as a salary. Funds earned from the cooperative also go to finance the shelter and the foundation’s various activities including those in the areas of education and microfinance.

Women who have been destitute find a way in which to support themselves. Women who have been outcast find acceptance and support. Women who have been abused find personal freedom.

Maheela is Nepali for women.

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