Women’s Self-Help Group
Strength in numbers. Women's Self-Help Groups aim to empower members through training, information and organisation. They may learn about savings and credit programs, small business or leadership, or enrol in adult literacy courses. Together with other clusters of Self-Help Groups, members can also make a real difference by lobbying government for policy change.
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A force for change
Everyone used to pass through Magma’s Ward 3, in Rukum District, Nepal, as quickly as they could. Among the cluster of houses built on either side of the road, there wasn’t a single toilet.
If you visit Ward 3 now, you’re in for a surprise. It’s one of the cleanest, tidiest villages along the road. Every house has a toilet, many of them big enough to serve as washrooms too. Rubbish is tidied away, and there are fruit trees and kitchen gardens. People here take pride in their small community.
What brought about this change? The members of the Damachaur Women’s Self-Help Group, who are part of a project run by TEAR partner United Mission to Nepal.
The external signs of change are impressive enough, but if you ask a few questions, you’ll find that the changes go much deeper. The Chairperson of the group, Jyothika Nepali, has been trained as a community mediator. She deals with all kinds of disputes – domestic issues, quarrels between neighbours, family arguments (often over land) and problems between parents and children, backed by her group. They have been involved in advocating at Village Development Committee(VDC) level for improved maternal and child health facilities, and several members also sit on the Health Post Management Committee. Water is often scarce in this area, and the women’s group works hard to protect the local water sources. Several members have also been trained in tailoring, to provide them with an income.
The next challenge the group has taken on is to reduce the amount of smoking in the community. It used to be endemic, with both men and women puffing on locally-made pipes at every meeting and function. Now, the women do not allow smoking during their meetings, and many of them have given it up altogether. They are now using their influence to try to stop smoking at all community meetings. Some women report that the amount of money they have saved by not smoking has been enough to provide stationery supplies for their children’s schooling.
Last year, Ward 3 was the first ward in the VDC to be declared “Open Defecation Free” – a great honour, and a great encouragement to the women. This year, the women have managed to access NRP 450,000 (AUD 5360) of VDC funding to support women’s group projects.
The Damachaur Women’s Group can proudly say: “We can change anything when we work together.”
About our partner – United Mission to Nepal (UMN)
UMN works towards “Fullness of life for all, in a transformed Nepali society”. Established in 1954, UMN is a cooperative effort between the people of Nepal and a large number of Christian organisations from nearly 20 countries on four continents. Multicultural teams of Nepali nationals and volunteer expatriate staff work alongside local organisations in less developed areas of the country, building partnerships that lead to healthy, strong and empowered individuals, families, and communities.