Providing hope and jobs in Nepal and India

Smiling woman using sewing machine (© Purnaa)
Purnaa manufacturing in Nepal provides stable employment to women who work in the garment industry. (© Purnaa)

In many countries, women and members of historically marginalized communities are often excluded from stable jobs. This leaves them vulnerable to human trafficking and exploitative labor.

Meet two U.S.-created companies that make a global difference. They offer opportunities in Nepal and India to women and others who struggle to obtain gainful employment.

The U.S. State Department on December 8 honored Purnaa and Mastercard India for their efforts to provide opportunities to women and individuals who are underserved or affected by poverty. Both are the winners of the Secretary of State’s Award for Corporate Excellence in the economic inclusion category.

Purnaa: Empowering the disadvantaged in Nepal

In 2013, Corban Bryant of Colorado helped create Purnaa, a Kathmandu-based manufacturer of hats, shirts, bags and accessories. Among his goals was to employ and build opportunities for survivors of human trafficking, forced labor, discrimination and other forms of exploitation. That commitment shapes Purnaa’s hiring and promotion practices. Today, over three-quarters of Purnaa’s staff and nearly two-thirds of its leadership team are women.

Many worked previously in exploitative or discriminatory labor settings or were vulnerable to human trafficking. Purnaa, by contrast, provides its employees technical training and a path to promotion. This allows new employees to support a family and plan a future.

Portrait of large group of people (© Purnaa)
Purnaa employees pose for a photo during a 2019 Christmas party. Women constitute 78% of Purnaa’s staff and 65% of the leadership team. (© Purnaa)

Company policy requires that 50% of its employees are from disadvantaged backgrounds. All employees receive company support for their health and education needs.

When most of Nepal shut down in 2020 because of COVID-19, Purnaa stayed open and produced masks for health care workers. The company maintained a skeletal staff with temperature checks at the door and hand-washing requirements.

Mastercard India: Boosting tech for women

Mastercard, a financial services company based in New York, began serving customers in India in 1988 through Vijaya Bank. The company supports farmers in rural areas, women entrepreneurs and small-business owners using technology to expand their operations.

Group of people seated on floor (© Mastercard)
Mastercard supports a training program that helps female entrepreneurs in Lucknow, India, expand their businesses. (© Mastercard)

Women own 20% of small and medium-sized business enterprises in India. Mastercard supports some of them through India’s Chamber of Commerce for Rural Women, an organization that has helped 10,000 women obtain greater access to markets and credit since 2018. The company continues to expand its reach to other communities.

To stimulate recovery efforts during the pandemic, Mastercard committed $33 million to develop technology that allows 10 million merchants to accept digital payments.

Formed through a partnership with Lawrencedale Agro Processing India, Mastercard Farmer’s Network provides technology that helps farmers improve harvest data, expand market access and connect with buyers directly.

The 2021 Secretary of State’s Award for Corporate Excellence also has winners in the categories of climate innovation and health security.