Dans la profondeur des vallées et des collines au sud de l´Himalaya, les femmes sont devenus les maîtres de leurs propres affaires; ils créent maintenant la base des campagnes de défense et organisent des mouvements visant à la promotion de l´agriculture durable.
Reported by Sujoy Das
Deep in the hills and valleys south of the Himalayas, women are becoming business owners, forming grassroots advocacy campaigns, and organizing movements to promote sustainable agriculture.
In male-dominated Nepal, where women and girls are regularly subjected to violence and discrimination, this emerging sense of independence wasn’t always obtainable. Thanks to the efforts of the Kathmandu-based organization Women Awareness Centre Nepal (WACN), a movement is being led that is drastically improving the socio-economic status of Nepali women and the well-being of their families.
In 1991, educator and women’s advocate Prativa Subedi discovered a way to give Nepali women a unified voice, by establishing women's saving and credit cooperatives. Subedi’s WACN gives women, traditionally prevented from handling financial responsibilities, both the confidence and the opportunity to step outside of their homes and become active and equal participants in their communities. It also develops the self-reliance skills of both male and female farmers by promoting organic farming and sustainable agriculture.
There are currently 16 women's savings and credit cooperatives ranging in size from 200 to 500 shareholders. Together they have raised over 20 million rupees to help women start their own income-generation programs such as livestock breeding and retail shops. The strength of the cooperatives is increasing daily and women are becoming powerful decision-makers in the process. WACN's programs have now reached 100,000 people in two districts of Nepal, and residents of adjoining areas are eager to have the program extended to them.
Women like Draupada Karki, once mistreated by her husband’s family, are gaining respect and becoming aware of their own power. Karki’s involvement with WACN launched her career as a manager of a small banking cooperative.
With the support of their community, these women are spearheading advocacy work from the grassroots to the national level that address issues of violence against women, and have even been elected to public office. And cases of violence against women, including trafficking of girls and women, are decreasing as women become more involved in development activities.
WACN’s work doesn’t end there. To reverse the damage of deforestation and encroaching agriculture in Nepal, WACN has partnered with the Sustainable Soil Management Program, a citizens' group that promotes better soil management. Through activities such as tree planting, farmer-to-farmer training, and compost and organic pest management, WACN is motivating villagers to achieve a healthy balance between adequate forest cover and the use of land for rice paddy cultivation.
By uplifting women to strengthen their communities, the WACN is putting a new cycle in motion, one that allows women to steer toward their own destinies.
Women’s rights are far from being a standard in our global community. What will it take for us to eliminate this rampant violence and oppression, and what’s the most effective vehicle? Government intervention and reform? Or the ripple effect of grassroots efforts?