Edition: July 2018


From slavery to self-sufficiency


By: Joanne March (volunteer)

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Salayani Chaudhary is a spirited woman to whom many in her community look up to.  Nimble, quick, happy and proud at 45 years of age, she is a hard worker who is making a better life for herself and her family.  There are seven members in her family: a son, twin daughters, two more daughters that are married and live elsewhere; her husband and herself.  

When her son completed high school, he went to build houses in a nearby village with his father.  He is a mechanical construction worker there now. 

Years ago, when Salayani was unknowingly pregnant with twins, she was recommended by a village man to go to the health post, and it was there that her daughters were born.  Two babies!  A complete surprise!  Without the health post, Salayani and her babies may have died.  Now her girls are older (in grade 12), they are healthy and strong, and Salayani is in the midst of preparations for one of them to get married.

Salayani was a bonded slave since she was young.  She lived in a rich man’s home spending every day caring for his children and doing labour work (as a daily farm worker).  The rich man was selfish and thought only of himself.  He would feed her leftover and spoiled food. He beat her when she could not work hard or fast enough.  There was so much work.  Her health declined.

Once married, Salayani was still forced to work for this owner. Every evening, she would come home to a small hut where she had to start all over again with her own family.  All she had to cook with were mud pots.  No steel pots.  At work, she would slave all day with the twins on her back and still the owner would beat her, scold her, and depress her.  She felt angry at the Brahmin (a wealthy class of people that frequently bonded the Tharu). It was a “no good life”.  Then the government declared that bondage was no longer legal so Salayani and her family were allowed to return home, but hardship remained as they owned nothing.  However, they were free! Salayani and her family continued to do labour work as well as making mud pots to sell for a small income.  Eventually Her International, through their Nepali partner Creating Possibilities, stepped in to help.

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That was nine years ago.  Her twin daughters were the first children to be sponsored by Her International and since then, life has been in an upswing.  Her children could now go to school. Then, slowly, they built a house.  For themselves!  First of mud and straw with a grass roof and then, a better house made of mud bricks and a mud floor. Her family learned to make bricks with a mud from far away. It took three men to cart all the bricks back to build their house, and through it all, her husband gradually learned a new trade. Today, they live in a solid two-story cement house complete with a cement roof and electricity.

In 2009, Salayani also joined her local mother’s microcredit group where she made many friends and learned many things such as women’s health and business. Putting her new knowledge of loans, savings, and building equity to good use, she earned small profits, paid back her loans, and reinvested the surplus each time into her business to help it grow. Now she owns her own land and house, and is a proud owner of a vegetable farm, seven goats with two newborn kids, one pig, three chickens, two ox and two ducks!

Salayani works hard. Iron strong and smiley even at 5am, she jumps right into her task work. While still black with night outside, she gets busy outside pumping fresh water to wash dishes with the ashes from last night’s fire. Ashes are a traditional village soap. Nothing goes to waste. Salayani purposefully sweeps the yard, all of the animal’s stalls, and either feeds each of her stock or takes them out to pasture. Dishes, laundry, work in the field, treks into the forest to fetch firewood, cooking, and taking care of her house and family fill each day – seven days a week, and most of the 365 days in each year.  Once a month she takes part in her local mother’s group meeting. There are no holidays for Salayani.

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Salayani’s life is still filled with labour work, but now she is happy. Before, she had no house and no food. She had no help when pregnant with her twins nor after they were born. Her husband worked far away.  She was bonded and miserable. These were most difficult days. Now, though, her days are good. She and her husband have a house and food, plus extra produce from their very own land left over to sell. Salayani’s children are grown up. They are healthy and now and she feels fortunate and proud to be making leaf pots for her daughter’s wedding. Salayani is social and wonderfully connected. Her community looks up to her in admiration for all that she’s pulled through and been able to manage.

Salayani and family

Her family now has basic necessities, and for that, Salayani and her husband thank CP and Her International greatly!  Without this help, their family, she says, would have nothing at all.  Salayani grins widely.  Palms together at her forehead, she happily bows and gives many thanks – again and again and again! 






About the author:

As a dental hygienist in her former life, Joanne March has always been an avid outdoor adventurer and lover of life. Happily married and mother of triplets, one of whom has cerebral palsy, she is now embracing the newness of her own freedom as her children fly from the nest.
Activities such as: Big White mountain ski patrol, three months in Nepal, cycling, sailing and backpacking expeditions, competitive swimming and beach volleyball fill many happy days. She also volunteers as a high school chaperone for outdoor and environmental education trips and as an assistant Special Olympic nordic x-country ski coach. As a new graduate from the emergency medical responder program, she has high hopes to expand her scope of practice in helping the community and those in need around her. Joanne’s solo travel and volunteer work in Nepal was a life highlight. The amazing people she met along the way, including her new “Nepalese family”, hold a dear place in her heart. One day, she hopes to return!


By: Deepa, Student Scholarship Field Coordinator

Anita Chaudhary is 16 years old. She is from an ex-bonded family*. She has two mothers: her own mother and a step mother. Her father never gave any attention for her schooling. She was on the verge of drop out as her mother could not support her. She became lucky as she got the support at the right time. She is getting support from last five years. Now, she is studying in grade 8. She is very talented at math. She is a good dancer, and she participates in dancing competitions in her school. She has to manage all the work by herself. Usually, the parents send her outside for labor work (daily farm work for a wealthy landowner). She has many friends and loves to play with them. In her free time, she does her homework and studies very much. She is diligent and cooperative. She is very glad with this educational scholarship.

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*Their family had borrowed money from a wealthy landowner and had to work it off over years. The rates charged by landowners are so high that the whole family becomes indebted and those debts are often passed on from generation to generation.

Michelle bonneau awarded highest service medal

On Tuesday, June 5th, our amazing founder, Michelle Bonneau, received the Meritorious Service Medal from Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette at Rideau Hall in Ottawa. President Kevin Edgecombe and Vice President Ann Haymond Hill accompanied her on their own dime for support and celebration.

Meritorious Service Decorations (Civil Division) are given to recognize remarkable contributions in many different fields - from advocacy initiatives and health care services, to research and humanitarian efforts. This is the highest decoration a civilian can receive in Canada.

Past recipients have tackled poverty in their community, improved education opportunities for children in Canada and abroad, or raised awareness of important causes and issues.

As stated on GG.ca, the Governor General’s website, “In 2005, Michelle Bonneau founded Her International to promote the education and development of marginalized women in Canada and elsewhere in the world. Through various programs supporting education in Nepal, as well as through the establishment of micro-credit groups, Ms. Bonneau has helped numerous Nepalese women to become self-reliant and achieve financial independence.”

We are so proud of you and humbled to continue your work!

official launch of Her: the tharu women's journey to freedom 

On Thursday, June 21st we hosted a marvelous evening on the beach at the Kelowna Paddle Centre to officially launch HER: The Tharu Women's Journey to Freedom. Michelle gave a beautiful reading from the book which you can see in the video here to the right.

Book summary: The Tharu, a marginalized Nepalese ethnicity, were freed from indentured labor with the official abolishment of the Kamaiya system (family debt bondage) in 2001 and the Kamlari system (bonded labour of young girls) in 2013. Despite their free status they were left landless and poor, but triumphed in their journey to freedom with dignity and self-respect. How? The 13 cent miracle.

Author: Michelle Bonneau (left) Artist / Photographer: Julie Gascon (right)

Author: Michelle Bonneau (left)
Artist / Photographer: Julie Gascon (right)

purchase the book at Mosaic Books in Kelowna (411 Bernard Avenue) or online at www.unako.ca

“The book is amazing - so well-written and the photography is breath-taking; it is clearly a work of art – both literary and pictorial!”
— Lorri, Kelowna

"This book is so beautiful. These women are very strong and believe in a better life for themselves."
— Ginette P from Florida

"What a gem! Thank you for inspiring me and so many others not only to live our dreams, but to not let any obstacles come in the way."
— Celine, Ontario



In January we launched our Her Ambassadors program

“Her Ambassadors” are a group of passionate people who have committed to be ADVOCATES and ACTIVATORS for our organization. They work closely with our organization to develop their own fundraising initiatives, to sell Unako products, or to raise awareness for our cause. Ambassadors are featured on our website and awarded “Her Ambassador” badges for their websites and business cards.

Watch Her Ambassador, Linda Edgecombe, talk about what being an ambassador means to her.

I Give a Dang

Check out Her Ambassador, Hugh Culver, spin his birthday on its head by choosing to give instead get.  For his 60th birthday Hugh chose to make a huge impact by launching a campaign to raise money to build classrooms in the region of Dang, Nepal. You can read about this exciting adventure over on his website here.  


In January, a local Kelowna woman, Kendra McFarland, started a challenge that encouraged participants to brave the cold and jump into the lake, gathering in groups to do so and empowering themselves to do something they may never have done before. You can see the results of the Lake Dip Challenge here >> 



If you'd like to become an ambassador, click here.



to buy jewellery that inspires


Manteo Resort Summer Market
JULY 19 & 20
We will be at this new summer market showcasing our jewellery. Come down July 19th and 20th between 1 and 7 p.m. to see this eco-chic line with each bead unique handcrafted from recycled glass bottles.  
3762 Lakeshore Road


Meadow Vista Honey Friday Night Market

This market will feature a mix of vendors, food trucks and musicians. Customers can sample various types of wine while shopping in a dreamy winery setting.
3975 June Springs Road


Excited by all that you see happening and want to have a say?
Become a member today for only $35 (tax deductible).

Your $35 annual contribution not only funds Her programs but also makes you a voting member of our registered charity. Members direct the future of Her International by voting on overarching organizational changes and the board of directors.You receive the Annual Report and are formally invited to our AGM in October. 

You also enjoy 20% off scarves and bags on our Social Enterprise website: Unako.ca! 

SAVE THE DATE: Our Annual General Meeting will be held on October 16, 2018.

Thank you for being a part of this journey in supporting and empowering girls & women around the world. 


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