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December 9, 2018

5/2/2018 2:55:00 PM
From Kathmandu to Evanston
Backpacks, purses and scarves made by Local Women’s HandicraftsPhoto by Mary DeJong
Backpacks, purses and scarves made by Local Women’s Handicrafts
Photo by Mary DeJong
By Mary DeJong

Local Women’s Handicrafts founder Nasreen Sheikh visited Evansotn on April 19 to tell her story and offer for sale handcrafted items from her native Nepal.

Nasreen Sheikh left her village in Nepal when she was 9 or 10 to work with her brother in Kathmandu. After a few years of working 10-15 hours a day in sweatshops to meet quota and living six people in a 10-foot by 10-foot room, she knew she needed to change the direction of her life.

“… I grew up in an area where women have absolutely no rights and are very burdened by social pressure, and that was something I could not bear to accept.

… I started learning different handicraft skills and I realized I could use my knowledge to help teach other disadvantaged women how to support themselves,” she told the audience at the YMCA Children’s Center Auditorium, 1420 Maple Ave.

In 2011, Ms. Sheikh started Local Women’s Handicrafts, to educate local women and teach marketable skills such as sewing and weaving.  Local Women’s Handicrafts sells goods sewn and woven by local women who have sought her out to learn skills to support themselves and their families.

“I felt a huge disconnection,” said Ms. Sheikh, referring to the clothing industry and the rampant consumerism. She asked, “When we go to a department store, why is there not a story of the artist on the product?”

Each of her items and its design is made by one of the women working with her. Because each item is uniquely handmade, the cost is slightly higher than a similar mass-produced item. Embedded in the fabric, though, is a story of education and skill.

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