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PostPosted: Sat Aug 15, 2015 11:40 pm 
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Solving the condom conundrum
By Anup Ojha
15 August 2015

Dhurba Rawal has been selling condoms in Kathmandu for the last three years. He has much to say about the art of condom selling

It’s often difficult to find a business niche in this crowded city of Kathmandu, where every tole is littered with small mom-and-pop shops sitting cheek to jowl, selling everything anyone might want. Luckily for Dhurba Rawal, when he came to the city to make something of himself, he had an uncle who provided just the right business idea.

It was an audacious one, and it would need Rawal to transform himself into combination of huckster, salesman and social do-gooder. What it would take to succeed, basically, was gumption — and guts. Selling condoms off a footpath in Ratnapark, after all, is no easy task.

Rawal was 18 when he first came to Kathmandu from Achham, for higher studies. Hailing from a remote village, his parents were in no condition to help him financially. His sole friend/guru was his uncle, who supported him when he initially came to the city.

His uncle, Katak Rawal, a government official in Kathmandu, was an advocate against HIV AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases, and was actively involved in a campaign that promoted contraceptive use. It was with his suggestions and investment that Rawal got the ball rolling in a business that would help him sustain a livelihood in the competitive city.

Four years have since passed since, and young Rawal’s business is thriving today. Now 22-year-old, Rawal is a BBS third-year student, awaiting his results, at Nepal Commerce Campus, in Minbhawan, and he makes more than enough to pay for his tuition and board; and still has more to spare. He recently appeared for his final year exams, and he has been using his time to take computer courses. “I have already completed the basic learning course. I am now learning programming,” he says. Rawal plans to make use of his insightful business mind and try his hands at something bigger. “Someday soon, I want to establish my own line of business,” he says.

From his savings, Rawal occasionally sends money to his parents for his younger brothers’ education — Sunil, a nine-year-old who studies in class three, and 13-year-old Rajindra, who is in class five. Rawal runs his condom business from 6pm to 8pm every day, as the Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) only allows small businesses to run after dark. He is not employed in any other venture apart from selling condoms. He thus has enough spare time to study at his rented flat. He says he sells over 70 condoms and earns up to 2,000 rupees (US$19.20) per day.

At his tiny footpath stall, a decent variety of rubbers can be found on display; their prices range from 30 rupees to 200 rupees per packet. His customers include everybody from sex workers, drivers and government officers to porters and businessmen. “These days I get female customers, too. I guess this is because the people are getting more aware about safe sex,” he says.

He estimates that over 200 sex workers walk through the Ratnapark every day, searching for customers in the vicinity. Health worker DB Bishwokarma, 48, has observed Rawal doing the same thing every day for the past three years at Ratnapark. “I see what he does as a form of social work too. He is earning money as well as bringing awareness among pedestrians about contraception,” Bishwokarma says.

Every day, as evening falls, the footfall increases because Ratnapark is the central hub from which many buses head out after office hours end. Rawal starts prepping as other vendors start putting up their products, all vying for the customers’ attention. It’s tough to miss Rawal, even amidst the chaos of Ratnapark. You can easily hear his voice above the din, as he calls out to people, “Vitamins for the soul, come take some Vitamins!” or “The secret to a long and happy life! Come and get it.” or “Condom chahiyo dai, condom, condom.”

This calling out to potential customers is what differentiates Rawal’s business model — unlike regular pharmacies, where the initial rapport building between customer and retailer is painstakingly awkward, Rawal excitedly screams out the fact that people should come to his stall to buy condoms. For visiting customers, the ordeal is made much easier — with Rawal screaming out the condom brands and the customer simply shoving a handful of money at him, sometimes surreptitiously.

It wasn’t always such easy going for him, though. Rawal recalls how, during his initial days, it was tough to sell condoms openly. “When I first set up a rubber shop in Ratnapark, people mistook me for someone who promotes prostitution. A group of people even came to attack me on my fifth day of business. But I only sell condoms,” he says.

Compared to the past, however, Rawal says there has been a slight decline in his earnings. Competition has cropped up everywhere, probably because the vendors nearby have learned that condoms sell well. “Nowadays, even retail shops, paan pasals, and people who run the public toilets in the area have started to sell condoms. But I’m still doing well enough,” he says. At one point, Rawal says, he used to earn as much as 3,000 rupees per day.

When asked if he was initially hesitant to take up such an odd job — the topic of condoms is taboo in our society — Rawal confidently says: “No risk, no gain! In such a competitive world, I had to do something most wouldn’t think of, and I have definitely fared well by taking a chance. In a way, I am also doing some social service by selling contraception. This is a healthy business,” he puns.

Source: Kathmandu Post

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PostPosted: Sun Aug 30, 2015 11:55 pm 
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Nepal's sexual minorities parade to demand rights
30 August 2015

KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) -- Hundreds of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transvestites paraded through Nepal's capital Sunday to demand that rights for sexual minorities be included in the country's new constitution that is being finalized.

The colorful rally in downtown Kathmandu - an annual affair - drew about 500 participants. "Our main demand is that the rights of the sexual minorities should be guaranteed in the new constitution," said Pinky Gurung of the Blue Diamond Society, a gay rights group in Nepal.

They are also demanding same-sex marriage be guaranteed in the new constitution, permitting gay and lesbian couples the right to adopt, buy joint property, open joint bank accounts and inherit from one another. Nepal this year issued passports under the category "others" for those who do not want to be identified as male or female. These people who identify themselves as "third gender" have also been issued citizenship certificates by the Nepalese government. But the community is saying only a few have been issued and it is still difficult to get them from government offices.

The parade has been held annually for the past few years on Gaijatra, a Hindu festival to remember the dead. The much-delayed constitution draft is being finalized by members of the Constituent Assembly, but political parties are still unable to agree on the number and border of the proposed federal states.

Source: AP

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