Mani Maya Kulung was born on 1st February 1968 A.D in Silichong Municipality of Sankhuwasabha district to Ramkarsingh Kulung and Panchashree Kulung. She is one of the most successful nettle entrepreneurs. Her childhood was spent doing household chores, collecting cattle feed and wood for fuel. She could not pursue formal education but learnt to read and write through informal channels. She was involved in nettle profession before her marriage. She was married to Jung Bahadur Kulung on 2050 B.S according to Kulung tradition. She is bringing up a son and a daughter and has found adequate support from her family in running nettle enterprise.
Since ancestral periods, Kulung people are mostly found to be residing in regions where Nettle cultivation is possible. Kulung men collect nettle barks from the forest which are transformed to fibre by the skills of Kulung women. However, it is difficult to find the use of technology to produce nettle cloth using modern loom before 2045 B.S. As time went by, Manimaya participated in activities related to the development of newer technologies. UK citizen Susi Dunsmore initiated the development of the skill to weave nettle fabric using modern loom and mixing nettle fibre and New Zealand sheep’s wool. She also established Sisuwa Club at Bala VDC, conducted trainings as well as started to sell products outside of local market. Bala village’s intellectual Khagendra Sangam Mewahang Rai helped to conduct trainings on nettle weaving. Those were the days of Panchayat political system. After successful conduction of training program at Bala, further trainings were organized with participants from Tamku, Sisuwakhola and Mangtewa. Manimaya started to get interested in nettle weaving when she learnt that Harikumari Kulung from neighbour village had taken a training on it. She remembers preparing 2.5 kg of nettle fiber and using a local loom to prepare nettle fabric which was used for household purpose. She learnt that Susi Dunsmore had arranged to produce fibre using New Zealand Sheep’s wool at Sisuwa Club. She could not summon courage to go to the club to ask for the wool so arranged to collect 1 kg wool from the club and made fiber from it. She mixed that fiber with nettle fiber and produced 10 meter fabric using mom’s traditional loom and sold it to Allo Club, Sisuwa. That income was shared between her and Maternal uncle Ganesh.
After receiving training from Sisuwa Club and working many years as Weaver and Trainer, she along with other 2 partners established an enterprise called Suryodaya Linen and Nettle Textile. That enterprise continues to produce textile in their own building.In 2045 B.S, another training was conducted by UK citizen Lisbeth at Sisuwa Club at Bala VDC. That program was conducted for three months. Different patterns and samples of nettle fabric were prepared during that training. Manimaya was also one of the participants.
She also participated in the three months training program on the design of shawls and mufflers using nettle fabric organized at Mahaguthi, Kathmandu. She then conducted a training program at Lakuwa, Tamku-7 using a bamboo loom. She also participated in a one month training organized at Women Training Center, Dhankuta on how to maintain accounts, fibre production and weaving. She also undertook a 3 months course conducted by Kathmandu-based Home Central office’s Rajendra Koirala and Krishna Shrestha on using Shuttle Loom.
She started to give free weaving trainings to women from neighbouring villages at Sisuwa Club. In her own village Lakuwa, she visited the homes of fellow women and offered free trainings.
Following is the list of trainings along with locations given by Manimaya:
|S. No.||Location||No. of trainings|
|2.||Sisuwa Club, Bala VDC||1|
|3.||Patheka VDC, Khotang||1|
|4.||Syaulibang VDC, Pyuthan||1|
|5.||Awalaching VDC, Surkhet||1|
|6.||Kalikhola VDC, Taplejung||1|
|7.||Lelep VDC, Taplejung||1|
|8.||Khandbari MC, Sankhuwasabha||2|
Before Suryodaya Industry, nettle products were produced at a bamboo cottage in her compound made by the help of fellow villagers. Local weavers used to weave, store and measure the fabric and sell them to Sisuwa club. Products like curtains, placemats, shawls, mufflers were produced as per the order of foreigners and sold monthly to the club. However, the women weavers were facing problems like not getting full payments and long periods of credit. Amidst all of these problems, Himalaya nettle and Linen Textile Industry (Nettle Society) was established at Khandbari in 2066 B.S. The objective of Nettle Society was to help Nettle Entrepreneurs to sell their products in cash and explore prospective markets. The cash received from the sales helped the entrepreneurs to manage their household expenses. Manimaya tells that the average income of Rs. 7500/month which she earns by selling nettle products to Nettle Society has been helpful in managing household costs and provide for her children’s education. Her husband Jungbahadur Kulung who has been the manager at Nettle Society since its establishment has been supportive to her along with her family and she credits her success to them as well.
Manimaya Kulung has been successful because of the investment in nettle enterprise and her hard work. Her main source of income is nettle enterprise. She has participated in numerous training programs conducted by various organizations, attended seminars and toured different places. She has also successfully conducted trainings on nettle processing and weaving. The Excellent Female Entrepreneur award given to her at Sankhuwasabha in 2074 B.S further enhances her reputation as a successful nettle entrepreneur.