British Ambassador Rob Fenn visits STEP’s Artisan Villages

In the four years since its launch, the Artisan Villages partnership between Label STEP and UKaid SEP has made significant strides toward revitalizing Nepal’s weaving industry by supporting enterprise and skill development in rural communities. The remarkable achievements of this collaboration were showcased to British Ambassador Rob Fenn late last year, when he visited the workshops in Sarlahi.

UK Ambassador Rob Fenn at STEP's Artisan Villages
UK Ambassador Rob Fenn learning a handknotting technique from a master weaver at the Artisan Villages in Sarlahi.

A Visit from England’s Ambassador to Nepal

The visit provided a firsthand glimpse into Nepal’s carpet industry, with Ambassador Fenn having the opportunity to witness the skill development, economic empowerment, and cultural preservation taking place within the region. The immersive experience highlighted the various stages of carpet manufacturing, from dyeing and weaving to finishing processes, and Fenn even tried his hand at hand knotting on a loom with help from a master weaver 

A key aspect of this partnership is its focus on inclusivity and empowerment. The visiting group saw the impact the partnership has had in training and employing over 1050 individuals across various job roles, with 99% of beneficiaries belonging to disadvantaged groups and 91% being women. Among these individuals is 80 persons with disabilities – exemplifying the commitment to creating opportunities for all, irrespective of background or ability.

Ambassador Fenn’s reflections on the visit emphasized the transformative role of UKaid SEP in revitalizing rural industries. He commended the initiative for not only preserving traditional weaving techniques but also integrating modern practices to meet global market demands. “I was struck by how [STEP has] reversed urban drift,” noted Fenn, “allowing skilled weavers to rebuild an industry in their own province.” His appreciation for the partnership’s efforts in empowering skilled weavers in their own province echoed the program’s success in connecting Nepali expertise with global export markets.

Preservation through Collaboration

The success story of UKaid SEP and Label STEP’s partnership in Nepal extends beyond economic metrics. It symbolizes a collaborative effort to preserve cultural heritage, empower local communities, and create sustainable livelihoods in rural areas. As Ambassador Fenn aptly noted, this partnership represents a small yet significant step towards harnessing Nepal’s potential and connecting it with global opportunities, embodying the spirit of resilience, entrepreneurship, and collaboration.

British Ambassador Rob Fenn, STEP Nepal team members, FCDO Nepal representatives, Mr. Baljit Vohra from UKaid SEP, and some of the weavers from the Artisan Villages in Sarlahi.

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