Nasreen grew up in the village Rajura near Kathmandu. See more in this video.
Nasreen Sheikh - Local Women's Handicrafts - Nepal - Shawls from yak hairMost women in Rajura are denied education. It is their job to be a wife and mother. Often times they are forced into arranged marriages which often leads to problems such as mistreatment. At the age of 11, Nasreen feared that she would also be forced into an arranged marriage. So she left and went to live with her older brother in Kathmandu. He worked in a handicraft factory. Nasreen did whatever she could to help and learn from him to be able to stay. Unfortunately, he soon lost his job at the factory and could not support her anymore. He told Nasreen, she had to return home. Nasreen was devastated and the night before she was to return to the village, she could not sleep. She woke up at 5 a.m. and went out to sit on the stoop to watch life on the streets of Kathmandu, dreaming to have the life of the people she was seeing. She got frightened by a dog and the owner told her not to worry. Something about his voice struck her. She broke down and told him her story. She told him how she wanted to go to school and get an education, about not wanting an arranged marriage and escaping from the village. The man offered to help her to be able to stay in Kathmandu and teach her. He taught her for years and encouraged her to learn more. He helped pay for her schooling and gave her hope for a new life. At the same time Nasreen continued learning handicrafts. With the time a couple of other women joined her. When they were 7 women in 2003, they decided to go off on their own. So from the young age of 14, Nasreen and the other women had began Local Women’s Handicrafts.
At the age of 18 and still living in Kathmandu, Nasreen’s family began to put pressure on her to get married. She still did not want an arranged marriage and had to run away. With the support of her friends, her teacher and her brother, Nasreen had the strength to continue going forward with her life and not give in to the pressures of the village and her family. As a result, Nasreen and her family were ostracized from their village. Her mother was accused of not being able to control her own daughter.
Nasreen spent years working and putting her focus on the women who needed her help most. Many people came through her shop and business was doing well. After some time, Nasreen had the idea to turn this into a more permanent solution. With the help and generosity of her foreign friends and customers, Nasreen raised $25,000 in loans to buy a small plot of land. This land would provide a new workshop space for the women to be able to work and it would be their own. The construction is currently under progress. Today 28 women (handicapped or who escaped from abusive homes or lived in extreme poverty) are employed by Local Women's Handicraft.