Featured Artisan: Ram Devi Mali, Ceramics

As a young woman, Ram Devi had a strong desire to work to improve her family’s economic condition.  Her father, struggling with a gambling addiction, mortgaged the family home and took out a loan to start a poultry farm. Unfortunately, whatever income generated from the farm he wagered away, resulting in shame and debt.

Even with their hardships, Ram Devi’s family banished the concept of her finding a job, calling it “improper” for a woman to work outside of the home.  Her financial straps tightened with the addition of her children, adding to her loans and debts.

Dismissing her family’s conservative restrictions, Ram Devi joined ACP in 1992.  Initially, she made Christmas ornaments and stamped designs on pottery.  After one year, ACP offered artisans training on the ceramic wheel.  Ram Devi was selected and after the six month training period she mastered the skill – which, in Nepalese society, is deemed a “man’s work.”

Breaking social stereotypes was not on Ram Devi’s agenda when joining ACP, but since her beginnings, she has been financially independent and commands respect within her home and community.  With the income she’s earned, she purchased her own potters wheel and started working from home in the morning and evenings to supplement her income.  The death of her husband left her the sole financial bearer of her children and father-in-law, which she attends to with her earnings from ACP.  Memories haunt her of her former life in poverty — not being able to visit her sick mother because she didn’t have the bus fair, sending her children to sleep hungry — but today, she is working hard to pay off her mortgage and climb out of debt.  She is hopeful for her future and the future of her children.