Nasreen Sheikh

Entrepreneur & Advocate for Equality

Born in a small, undocumented, male-dominated border village between Nepal and India, Nasreen witnessed as a child unconscionable atrocities against children and women. By age nine, she was working 12–15 hours per day in a toxic Nepali sweatshop as a child laborer, receiving less than $2 per shift. Like all girls in her village, Nasreen was not allowed to go to school, but through a serendipitous encounter with a kind stranger who became her personal teacher for 10 years, Nasreen was able to escape the sweatshop as well as forced marriage—the first girl from her village ever to do so.

At age 16, Nasreen founded Local Women's Handicrafts (LWH), an eco-conscious women’s collective in Kathmandu that empowers and educates marginalized women. LWH has now trained over 100 Nepali women—many of whom have escaped forced and abusive marriages and all of whom are determined to escape poverty—and given away tens of thousands of hygienic supplies to women and girls who cannot afford them.

In 2015, Nasreen visited the US and founded Empowerment Collective, a nonprofit organization with the goal to empower 10,000 women by 2025 through two training centers, one already established in Kathmandu and one under construction in a remote Nepali village. Nasreen gives talks around the world about her work, the plight of child laborers, the devastating effects of fast fashion, and survivors of forced marriage. Her work has been featured in Forbes, Cosmo, the Huffington Post, and Amnesty International. She is currently writing a book, and a documentary about her life story is in production.

Fair Trade USA: What is the driving force behind the work you do?

 

"We live in a globally connected world where every action affects others. I was a child laborer, the first woman in my village's history who ever escaped forced marriage—I am an entrepreneur, I am an advocate for equality, and most important I am a human being."

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