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Sulochana Shrestha-Shah

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From my very childhood I saw differences between different families in Nepal, and I realized that illiteracy is the worst thing that can happen to one in today's world. It makes one helpless and naive about one's opportunities. To me, it seems like a handicap which makes people follow blindly, and they are not able to stand up for their own rights. This is what I call Mental Slavery. Hoste Hainse, therefore, is a foundation to minimize illiteracy within the Nepalese society and eradicate mental slavery.

Hoste Hainse’s story begins in 1990 with Sulochana Shrestha-Shah, who had just returned to Nepal to teach at the

Academy of Science and Technology. Sulochana is an accomplished academic, and at the time had just achieved a master’s degree in Mathematics from RWTH University in Germany. However, Nepal’s lagging technological development at the time found her academically overqualified and her skillset underappreciated. Though Sulochana would later help Nepal acquire its first computer and email system, at that point she turned her attention towards rectifying some of the country’s most pressing human rights issues.

In the late ‘80s, Nepal’s largest export was hand-knotted rugs and carpets. However, this was an industry built on child

and sweatshop labor. When a German TV show exposed the dirty, dangerous, and inhumane conditions children and workers endured to support themselves, exports plummeted and Nepal’s economy began to suffer.

It is here that Sulochana found she could enact change. Her work began with salvaging Nepal’s hand-knotted rug industry

by creating two sister companies: Formation Carpets and Hoste Hainse. She faced much backlash in her early years from many in the carpet sector, who saw her company as competition due to its appealing benefits and wages. However, her work piqued the interest of many prominent figures, most notably Kailash Satyarthi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 for his tireless advocacy for children’s rights in India. Together, they began a certification service called Rugmark, which investigated and certified rug and carpet companies as child-labor free. That certification company has grown over time into the international and widely recognized GoodWeave, a certification organization dedicated to ending child-labor across all global supply chains. Companies with the GoodWeave label are certified to have used no child, forced, or bonded labor in the making of their products, and fairly treated workers are free to collectively bargain and associate freely.

The establishment of Rugmark, later renamed GoodWeave, was a long-term project that ran in parallel with the

development of the Formation Carpets and Hoste Hainse companies. In 1997, for her work on these three organizations, Sulochana was awarded the Human Rights Award by Advocates for Human Rights. This recognition and fame also turned a spotlight onto Hoste Hainse, and Sulochana was faced with the prospect of potentially expanding Hoste Hainse’s reach beyond the children of Formation Carpet’s weavers. At the time, Sulochana was unconvinced that locals would be receptive to new schools and want to educate their children in them. However, on a visit to the Education Minister of Nepal, her husband encountered Binay Chaudhary, a regional representative who was visiting for the very purpose of bringing schools and education to the children of Sarlahi. Though Binay himself was well-educated, holding a Masters in Science, he described himself as an anomaly in his home region, as rampant poverty in Sarlahi made opportunities for education scarce.

It was the encounter with Binay that convinced Sulochana of rural Nepal’s demand for education. Two years later, Hoste

Hainse offered its first scholarship to 20 children. However, when Sulochana visited Sarlahi to check on the scholarship program, she was greeted by 200 young children crammed in a makeshift classroom, which had previously been a cowshed. Realizing how dire the situation in Sarlahi was, Sulochana began gathering funds to construct schools. After decades of Sulochana’s tireless work and leadership, Hoste Hainse has four schools that educate over 2,000 children.

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