The universal language of food empowers women in Nepal

Published:24 May 2017

TOP: CQUni academics Miriam Ham (rear) and Dr Jay Deagon and Dr Wendy Hillman (front) with participants in the Seven Women cookery school project. BELOW: Dr Jay Deagon with one of the participants.

A trio of CQUniversity academics has visited Nepal to help introduce a new cookery school venture which will help to empower marginalised women.

The cookery school is an expansion project for the Seven Women organisation, which helps disabled women, single mothers and women living in extreme poverty by providing skills training, employment opportunities and education.

CQUniversity academics Dr Jay Deagon (Home Economics), Miriam Ham (Education) and Dr Wendy Hillman (Sociology) travelled to the Seven Women’s Kathmandu premises to canvass possibilities for a hospitality training program for women interested in cooking.

“Through the universal language of food, in 2004, Seven Women started a small cooking class in a kitchen on the 5th floor of their Kathmandu premises,” Dr Deagon says.

“The cookery school is one avenue for generating income for Seven Women and also creates an opportunity for jobs and training.

“Seven Women have a long-term vision and are creating a path to self-sustainability. Stephanie Woollard is the Australian founder of Seven Women, and Anita Kerr is the President of Seven Women Nepal. Between them they have won a number of awards for their social innovation and sustainable practices model.”

The CQUni trio visited at a time of expansion and growth for Seven Women.

Tourist numbers are increasing and the charitable organisation is building a new premises for its cookery school, which will be able to accommodate up to 25 tourists at a time.

“To be present at the very beginning of this new cookery school adventure, being with Anita and the Seven Women women, watching the cookery school go from a hole in the ground to having the roof put on, was a humbling experience,” Dr Deagon says.

“After talking to the women, it became apparent that a significant challenge for Nepal’s working women is personal safety.

“The cookery school provides a safe space for the women to undergo training, and gain confidence to work in a busy hospitality environment.

“The women’s passion for food is obvious and cooking is a way for them to not only express themselves, but to show that they care for their guests.”

CQUni’s team spent two weeks with Anita Kerr and a select group of women to develop training manuals and to provide skills training.

Groups of women also participated in personal and kitchen hygiene training.

“We also taught the women how to use measuring equipment and utensils so that they can develop their own Seven Women Cook Book,” Dr Deagon says.

“The women are already highly competent cooks; we just pointed out to them the English words for the skills they already have.”

Ms Ham and Dr Hillman also participated in the tourist cookery experience where they learnt how to make Nepalese vegetable curry, Golbheda ko Achar (Tomato Pickle), and Alu Dum (Fried Potatoes).

The Seven Women cookery school experience is a chance for tourists to experience some of the wonderful tastes and aromas of Nepal and to learn about Nepali cooking.

“The women are courageous and inspirational, they are overcoming some extremely challenging personal circumstances and forging a path toward self-sustainability,” Dr Deagon says.