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One stick of wood breaks easily,
but five sticks of wood together, are hard to break.
Together we are stronger...

- Shanti Shakya Dolma


Kakani Himalayan Natural Dyes

Kakani Himalayan Natural Dyes is a small social venture in Kakani, Nuwakot, a beautiful village area in Nepal. The enterprise produces natural dyes with which they dye different kinds of fabric.
The women use ingredients such as madder, lac, myrobolan, rhubarb, red cutch, onion skin, alum, barbaric, rhododendron, and many more elements. Currently, in KHN Dyes, 25 women from this area, have been trained and work there.

Underneath you read more about the extraordinary story about the start and struggle of Kakani Himalayan Natural Dyes.

Kakani Himalayan Natural Dyes (KHN Dyes) was started in 2008 by a group of five women. Shanti Shakya Dolma was one of these women. The women began the venture together after having finished training in natural dyeing. This training was provided by the Business Service Center (BSC) in Nuwakot, ran by Business and Professional Women Nepal. This was a yearlong program that provided training in rural entrepreneurship for women.

Shanti, at that time, had been married for several years and had a daughter. From a young age, Shanti had always dreamed about starting her own business but did not have the opportunity. Her husband had had two companies earlier; a strawberry farm and a livestock farm, which both hadn't been successful, and through which they lost the little bit of savings they had.

Those years had been very tough, in which there was a point when Shanti and her husband could not afford the education-fees for their daughter Sara anymore. This motivated Shanti a lot. "It motivated me to work hard, not depend on others, and to do it myself." At age 32, she was ready to start her own business.

After the training, the group of five women all invested 1.000 Nepali Rupees (+- 10 USD) and began KHN Dyes with 5.000 NRS (+- 50 USD)
The women won the Nepalese Award for Social Entrepreneurs for using natural dyes and empowering women in the community.
In 2013, the women decided to go separate ways to pursue their own dreams. KHN Dyes was then taken over solely by Shanti. Since taking over, Shanti has been effective in increasing production as well as the customer base.
KHN Dyes aims to be a social venture in all aspects, not only as a business but also by impacting socially/ environmentally in different ways.

In conversation
with Shanti

How did people think about natural dyeing at first?
Foreigners are more familiar with natural dye, in contrast to Nepalese people, who don't know much about this. "They said: "Shanti is going mad, she is collecting all the forest, all the raw materials.. how is she going to do it?"." Shanti had to prove herself, and her work towards them and the positive result of dyeing with these raw materials.
It took a lot of time to prove to the local people in Kakani the effectiveness of the techniques in natural dyeing and explain why we were doing this.  

Shanti went door to door to ask women if they wanted to work at KHN Dyes. When Shanti showed them the natural dyeing, at first, they couldn't believe it, but the same women are working now at the venture for some years and have trust in the work. The women believe in the success of natural dyeing, they earn their money with it, and they wear natural dye clothing themselves as well and see the color stays, also after washing.

Why is Natural Dyeing so important, in your opinion?
We don't know the harm of chemical dye. It is like a slow poison, which attacks our skin. I advise everyone to wear natural fiber made clothes and clothes which are dyed with natural dye. It is good for our health and good for nature.


What do you hope to reach with KHN Dyes?
"The people who live in Kakani, especially women, they are all involved in this venture and help to produce natural dyeing products. I hope that Nepalese people will wear more own Nepali products with natural dyes. The more we sell, the more women will work together, and more women will earn money. Whatever the women earn from this venture, they spend on their children's education, and in their household.
Even though it is the 21st Century, so many women in Nepal are still not working. We want to allow them to do something useful and earn some money."

Why do you think it is essential that women have work?
Women need to work. We should not be begging our husbands, to ask for money to buy something, to go shopping. Women need to work to earn money, so they can be independent and spend their own money on things for themselves. This is really important.

What does Women Empowerment mean to you? And how does Kakani support women?
KHND supports women in three different ways. KHN Dyes supports women in ways of empowerment, considering health and education. We need to educate women, to learn about health. If we want to secure our health, we have to earn money. Any kind of work, but we have to work, and have to be independent.

A critical factor of women working together is the social factor. I like the example: One stick of wood breaks easily, but five sticks of wood together, is hard to break. Together we are stronger...

How many women are working in KHN Dyes?
At the moment, we have six dyeing masters, fifteen knitting ladies, two women who are stitching, and one female accountant.

What makes the product of KHN Dyes unique and different from other products?
Our products are made by natural fabrics, like hemp, alloo, bamboo, pashmina, and raw silk. The products are woven in Nepal and dyed here in KHN Dyes. We are proud to say it is made in Nepal and a Nepali product.

How would you describe KHND in one word?
Woman power! We all are women, no men here! We made it; we win it!!

My advice to any female entrepreneur
Whoever wants to establish an enterprise or a woman wants to become an entrepreneur. They have to know about it deeply. And the woman who is working, they should be happy with heir work, and close to their work, and then they can become successful. Don't rush for the income, but you need to take patience. The business takes time to make money.. You need patience.

What do you dream about?
I dream of having my own shop in Kathmandu. A shop, where our products are displayed, where everything is a natural fabric, and every fabric dyed naturally. We already have our products in a collective shop. This is great, but there is not enough space for displaying our products.

In conversation
with Sara

Around 4-5 years ago, Shanti her health became worse when she fell sick and had to stay in the hospital. At that time, Sara Shakya, daughter of Shanti, had to take over the business to continue the work, suddenly.

Sara didn't have any training before that and had to learn quickly, as she had to take over the entire business. She managed to teach herself by the notes she found in her mother's office.  

When Shanti returned after being in the hospital, Sara received a proper, but informal training from her mother. Sara used to look after the workshop, the dye, and was working like "an all-rounder." Sara her dream had always been to be a designer, as she had been interested in color combinations and creating different patterns. "Here, I can work like that, experimenting, creating different color combinations and different patterns in our tie-dye designs. It's great to be able to do this while working together with my mother."

At the start, there were only a few color tones. Then Sara started to mix different colors and ingredients. "It was so much trial and error, the creation of new colors. With that process and that error, I get another color. So I wrote everything down, to know what the exact recipe is from the new color. Natural dyeing takes a lot of patience because of the experimenting."


"We use different pots with the ingredients, to create a particular color. This is the main secret in the natural dyeing process. Pots made out of ion or copper create a different reaction with the various raw materials."

"We are using waste materials from the forest, like the waste of rhododendron flower, the skin of an onion, skin of the pomegranate, madder, turmeric, rhubarb, red cutch. To fix the color better to fabric, and protect it from staining, we use alum, which is also a natural ingredient. "

How is it to work together in one business as mother and daughter?
"It's fun and easy. Working as a mother and daughter together, we support each other. We communicate adequately, and we complement each other well. I'm lucky to be able to work together with my mother."

How do you see the future of KHN Dyes?
"I see a good future. More people nowadays are interested in natural dyes. Nowadays, people are more aware of the importance of natural dyeing, and the importance of women empowerment, sustainability and slow fashion."

How would you describe KHN Dyes in one word?
While having a big smile on her face, Sara responds: "It would say, it is my future.. my future lies here."

The story behind the product in video

Meet the women


My name is Sangita Lama. I am 23 years old. My home is at Chapali.

Can you tell me a little bit about your family?
I'm married to my husband and have a son. I live together with my husband and son, and my father-in-law and mother-in-law.

Can you walk me through your day starting when you get up in the morning?
I wake up at 6 am. I make tea for my family. Then, I get my son ready for school and send him to school. At 10.30 am I arrive at work. At 4.30 pm I finish my work and go home. I prepare snacks for my son and then help him with his homework. After doing that, we all have dinner.

What is the hardest part of the day?
To make food and doing household chores.

What is your favorite part of the day?
I enjoy working in the workplace with my colleagues.

What do you dream about?
I aim to work and earn lots of money. With this, I want to send my son to a good school.

What is the strength in yourself, which others might overlook?
I think I am quite hardworking. I can make my living by doing any sort of works.

In Nepal, we have some kind of thought that women should not be working, and it is just men who work and earn money. What do you feel about this?
I think this wrong. Men and women both are equal, and both should be equal to make their living by earning.

In a word, can you describe how you feel about working here?
Working here, I have been able to solve the financial problems on my own. In villages, women usually do not get to work, and even if they get to work, it is only under daily wages. In contrast, here the work is comparatively easy and also a regular source of income.


Namaste! My name is Sarita Lama. I am 25 years old. My home is in Kakani.

Can you tell me a little bit about your family?
I have two sons and my husband, total we are four in our family. My elder son is seven years old, and my younger son is three years old. They both go to school.

Can you walk me through your day starting when you get up in the morning?
I wake up at 6 am. I prepare food and wash my childrens' clothes. I prepare food for my children and then send them to school. After that, I will have lunch myself and go to work. After work, I go to pick up my children and make them food first before I prepare a diner for myself and the rest of my family. I also look after the chickens while they move around. We have our dinner and then go to bed.

What is the hardest part of the day?
I don't think there are too many tough tasks among my daily schedule. However, I find moving from one place to another a little bit more difficult, walking uphill and downhill.

What is your favorite part of the day?
I love coming to work here, and I totally enjoy working with my colleagues.

What do you dream about?
I dream about earning a lot of money, so I can send my kids to a good school to help them become a person with a renowned position, this is my dream.

In Nepal, we have some kind of thought that women should not be working, and it is just men who work and earn money. What do you feel about this?
People tell us that it is only the male that can do the jobs, but I think its also female who are equally capable of doing the works. Maybe my husband might not look after our children, but I believe that I can work on my own to educate my children.

In a word, can you describe how you feel about working here?
I have been working here for the past four years. I really like coming to work here. I have learned different skills, and I can also earn money.

Thank you!


Namaste! My name is Muna Tamang. I am 23 years old. I have three people in my family, my son and my husband, including me. My son goes to school and is three years old.

Do you have anyone else in your family?
No, we don't have. Previously, we used to stay in a joint family, but for three months, we have separated from this.

Can you walk me through your day starting when you get up in the morning? How have you been managing your time as a working lady?
I wake up at 6 am. I go to fetch water and then prepare food. I let my children have food and then send them to school. Sometimes when I have time, I work in my kitchen garden. I have my lunch and then come to work.

What is the hardest part of the day?
I find it tough to work in the field.

What is your favorite part of the day?
I think it is quite fun and easy to work together with my colleagues here.
In comparison to my past, I am quite happy now. When I used to live with my in-laws, I didn't even have time to comb my hair. I am so glad to make my living my self-earning.

At what age did you get married?
I got married at the age of 18.

Do you think life has been easy as you got married earlier at that age? What is your suggestion to other sisters?
When we were just married, it felt good. But when my husband started going out for work, my in-laws would make me work a lot. I think getting married early results in this, which I wasn't aware of back then. I suggest other sisters also not to get married early. Even if you are willing to, it is better if you think twice and be self-reliant before getting married.

What do you think is your biggest strength?
I really don't like to be angry at other people, rather have my smiley face always. When I aim at doing something, I get it done on my own.



Since all of you are Tamang in this community, what is your or people's thought on the female population working outside their homes? Do you think they should be doing it or should stop working out of home?
I believe it is only in people's sayings, but it's all females who are support and guidance to male. I don't think anything is possible without females. I think females have played a vital role in society. For me, females are moving ahead in society.

What difference do you find among the women in the village and Kathmandu?
I think women in the villages have faced a lot of tougher times and have the courage to fight against it. Women seem to be doing all sorts of work, whatever comes their way. People in the city act as they are better than others. Their attitude sounds as if they are best, and no one can compete with them. They think that people are villages are dirty and do not maintain their hygiene.

In a word, can you tell us something about this work?
Since I have joined in this work, I have been able to solve a lot of problems. I have my own family now, and I have been able to support my son's educations along with food supplies through this income.

What is society's feedback on your work? What do your neighbors tell you about the work? Do they think it has supported your life, or do they ask you not to go to work?
Since I have been working, society thinks good about me. Before, when I had just joined, my mother-in-law used to tell me to work more in the field rather than here. But I always felt welcome and enjoyed being with my colleagues and working here. I was also able to meet my family's needs through the income here.

What is the difference in income that you make from here versus the income from your fieldwork?
Income wise, there isn't much difference. But to work in the field is tough, whereas here it is comparatively easy.

Thank you! Namaste!


Kakani Himalayan Natural Dyes is located in Kakani, in Nuwakot. What a beautiful area!!

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