A Cow in the Office

January 6, 2016 · 0 comments

The last phase of our building was our cow shed. Once that was finished, we could bring our cows to our home. Cows have a very different life in Nepal and Kopila asked Kausila to describe her feelings about having a cow and how she looks after it. Soon this cow will be joined by Bishnu and her cow.  Part of Kausila’s story has been omitted at her request.  Suffice it to say, she is a very brave woman.

20160106_212610_resizedKausila says:  I really love my cow these days. I am grown up in far western part of Nepal.  I haven’t gone to school and my childhood was spent looking after cows and the buffaloes. When I was 13 years old, I got married to a man who was already got married two times and twice times bigger than me.  My life was ruined when I came to my in-laws house.  After having 2  children I knew that I was only slave of my husband and my in-laws.  They keep me doing their work and don’t want me to improve myself so they kick me out from their house.  

Now I am in Samunnat fighting for my rights and I also have my sister Kalpana.  She is studying in class 8 funded by our dearest Sarah Bartram’s project called Project Didi.  I am very grateful to her and the project. Kalpana is studing very hard.  She is also very happy.
Now my days are spending with full of joy.We have our cow named THOULI which means BIG because next one is also coming.  

This is how I look after Thouli:  I wake up early at 5 morning and cook breakfast for her. It’s all mixed 20160106_212657_resizedrice, maize, some green saag (spinach) like we have with dhal and some lentils.  After feeding her I milk  her. I milk her two times in each day and she gives 9 litres of milk a day.  It’s so good that everyone wants fresh milk without adding water.  I do not have to buy milk for my Khajaghar (the snack shop that Kausila runs in the little shop next to Samunnat’s office) for milk tea.

Looking after a cow is a great source of income and a way to financial independence for women. Some time ago we wrote about Sita whose cow has now calved. She looks after her cow at home and sells her milk. She was also able to sell the calf.  A cow is an expensive investment but one that usually pays off. We are very grateful to our friends and to Michele, Frank and Ron for the cows in our life!

Subbha kamana naya barsha ko lagi!!! Happy New Year for 2016.


The Bead Society Journal

November 10, 2015

DSCN1626One of the wonderful things to come from the Eurosynergy Conference was the chance to meet, face to face, so many people who have helped and supported us. One of those people was the lovely Sue Heaser.

When Sue returned to the UK, she wrote an article about our organisation for the Bead Society (we wrote about that here) and it was published a few months ago. Carole Morris of the Bead Society sent us some extra copies and you can seeDSCN1627 from these photos that the ladies were fascinated and thrilled to see themselves and their work so beautifully written about. Thank you Carole and Sue.

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The next simple step

November 9, 2015

The regular reader will know that we have a slightly feast or famine DSCN1666approach to blogging and this is no different!

We are taking the next simple step approach! In blogging and in life!

In this post we have recent shots of  our Samunnat home. We have refined our security measures (you don’t see DSCN1649jagged glass security fences like this in the west!) and are looking much more settled in our space.  We love our home.

Four ladies and one little boy are living here at the moment. One of these ladies, Kausila, is running a DSCN1646small snack shop (Khaja Ghar) in one of the shops next door. It is very convenient for our ladies!!  She has been busy making sel roti (a sort of sweet rice donut) for festivals.

Durga went to a tailoring training in Kathmandu and has come back with fantastic skills.  She is looking at augmenting her DSCN1642income by training others in her skills. There is a buzz of excitement that helps to overcome the extreme sadness we feel about the state of our country. We are almost paralysed by the fuel crisis which has resulted from protest blockades on the border. Many believe that, given the are organised by minority groups,  strife is being fomented and sustained by India.  Whatever the cause, it has now cost us more financially than the earthquake and slowed earthquake recovery enormously. It is very hard to stay positive and we need our local successes to hang in there and keep taking one simple step…

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Happy news for Nepal

September 25, 2015

With enormous joy and relief, Kopila writes: It was the happiest moment photowe  ever felt: 20th Sep 2015, the day our Constitution was declared. The Government declared national holiday  and radio and TV stations announced the time for celebration in the middle of our town Jhapa Eastern Nepal.  I was happy on that day but I want to be together with my Bahini Haru.  Nepali people have been waiting for 65 years for this historical day: our Federal, republic constitution.

Even though 37 Madeshi terai politicians didn’t sign the constitution, thephoto majority of the Parties (537!) agreed with the constitution.  We were happy that the parties (eventually!) did their job.  There had been so many delays and hold ups and obstacles and we wondered if it would ever happen.  Now we have a little bit of hope for our better life. We may not see the changes in our lifetime but our coming generation could get it.

We all were in our office sitting and wanted to hear that all Nepalese celebrated it but Terai half of the Madeshi Nepali blacked out that Day. We really don’t want to hear any violence at all.  Initially, we decided not to participate in the Rally and Candle light but slowly as time past and people started to cheer we couldn’t stopped ourself and we all went.

photoThousand of people were singing and dancing.We all were congratulating each other; it didn’t matter that we have never met before.  I was taking the photos and my eyes were full of tears. At one point I felt shy and looked around to see whether people were looking at me.

But it was not just me.

Many people were crying with happiness at this moment. Poor people in the Terai where they oppose the Constitution have suffered under Bandha (strike) for 40 days.  I want my friends and fellow Nepalis in Terai region to know that the solution is not strikes and violent protests. We all want peace and happiness. If anything or any rights are not included we have many ways to keep our united voice heard, so let’s not divide humanity into races, caste and religion.

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Celebrity spotting

September 1, 2015 · 1 comment

photoWe love getting photographs of people wearing our jewellery (hint hint!) and were very excited when a friend (thank you Shell!) sent in this photo of an Australian Member of Parliament Cathy McGowan, the Federal Member for Indi.  We think Cathy really rocks this necklace and have promised her some matching earrings if she tells everyone about us! She got it from Sally at Albury Picture Framers in Albury.  Creative Sally in fact specially requested the colour combination of Navy and Paprika and it has been a very popular one. Thank you all ladies!

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photo-4Regular readers will remember us mentioning our three new shops in this post.  These shops are now being filled!  Some time ago, Kausila came to us needing legal support, safe accommodation and a means to earn some money. After working for a while with some of the polymer ladies, she felt strong enough to make a stand against the injustices she has been facing.  She knew she had no reason to feelphoto-3 ashamed.  Although she was scared, with the support of the ladies and Kopila as her lawyer, she confronted the head of the local police department with her situation.  Eventually charges were laid and she will be receiving compensation.

Kausila is also now running a khaja ghar (snack house).  In readiness for the grand opening, delicious foodphoto-2 was cooked and a beautiful sign was hand made.  A special puja (ceremony)was done to ensure the good fortune of the little shop. The customers look very happy with their snacks! The shop will be very convenient for both the general community AND the Samunnat ladies.  We will have to do some energetic yoga!

photoIn the aftermath of the earthquake (as if any more problems were needed!) the country has been beset by strikes and people feel very despondent. It was a much needed joy when we saw the article written about us by the gorgeous Sue Heaser for the Bead Society of United Kingdom.  The editor, Carole Morris, is sending us some hard copies for our library and we are sending her some of our Sundari beads!  We met Sue at Eurosynergy in Malta and really loved the way she put our story together in the journal! All you UK folk could go and buy a copy!


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photo-2When Kopila and I talked about the case against the guru recently, I described it as a David and Goliath battle and, of course, then had to explain what that meant!  We really felt like David but expected that, in this case, Goliath would win. But then, I have just received this email:

Good morning and Namaskar
We are very very happy that [the little girl] got justice. The guru went jail for Six years and [she] got 50000/- NRS as a compensation.The news published today as a breaking news.  We won Didi.

Everyone is stunned and delighted. Kopila has had phone calls from people congratulating her and this is real progress in Nepali justice. Obviously, the guru and his followers will appeal but Kopila feels fairly confident that the appeal will fail. She wrote:

When the last hearing day the supporter was very confidant that the verdict goes in favor of Guru but photo 1after long pleading of the lawyers the court put him in Jail. First I couldn’t believed and I didn’t tell anyone but after sometime there was a call from the women who supported us…Didi I know women were very happy to know about this justice.  Now [the guru’s] supporters are saying that they will go for the Appeal court.  I am sure Didi that he was found guilty in district court so there is no chance for him to be release.  People will know I was fighting for the rights of the little girl and her family and it was not the issue of money or publicity. 

This is just one case of many similar and one victory is such an encouragement at so many levels. Thank you for all the supportive messages you have sent here and to our Facebook page! We can read them here even though they don’t who up!

To accompany this post we have a couple of photos of the new shops!

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Kopila wrote this at 2.00am this morning. It has been an Exif_JPEG_PICTUREexhausting and draining time and she would never say this herself but she has been amazing. It is not that she doesn’t feel scared. She does. Sometimes she doubts herself. But, and this is courage, in spite of her fears, she does what she believes is right.
She writes: Recently, I was approached by a young woman who wanted Samunnat to help her 14 year old sister who was being repeatedly abused by a guru (priest) at a local ashram.  It has been very difficult because this guru is very powerful and has supporters even in India.  Ever since I became involved there are clamouring, loud, angry voices and threats to me.  People have accused us of wanting publicity, or of trying to destroy religion.  We are simply seeking justice and this little girl’s human rights.  
In all the clamouring and noise, all I hear is this little girl’s pain.
Just two days before the first court hearing,  Samunnat hired two lawyers because the followers were so aggressive that police suggested it was unsafe for me to go to the court.  Over one thousand of the guru’s supporters people want to hurt me.  Fortunately the Nepali Bar Association support me and said that if I was threatened further, no one from Jhapa Bar Association will plead the case so the threats stopped.   
The pleading of the two lawyers and medical evidence meant that the guru’s application for bail was refused and he is in custody.  However, there was another dreadful situation when the guru’s followers bought the girl’s father from Kailali and he took her from her sister.  When her sister gave the girl to her father they took her to the temple and bullied her to change her statements.  She came to the next hearing saying that I and her brother-in-law forced her to accuse her guru. Her mother and one sister are supporting me and saying she has been forced to say this but her father and the followers continued to apply pressure to her. She is just a 14 year old girl and in a dreadful situation.
We hoped that in the last hearing she would make her original statement but the followers didn’t gave chance for me to meet with the little girl.  Even at the police station her father and the followers hid her from me.  I could hardly saw her.   In spite of this, her sister’s statement was so strong and brave and powerful and our lawyers are saying that many people know the guru is not innocent.  Whatever happens, the case  is know very well known and the guru is at least temporarily in gaol and many people know his crime.  Women from local community are protesting against the Guru.  There is some justice that has come out of this. Of course we are still so worried for this little girl.
It is not just earthquakes that make life scary sometimes.  And Kopila knows that she is not alone in her struggle for justice.

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photo 2Not a lot of words here.  Images. Every Nepali is trying to help. You read about Govt. incoordination and disorganisation. Yes. It is true there are problems. But most people are doing their best. And people on the ground are conveying to local groups what the needs are.  People in local JCI groups, cooperatives, Rotary.  On Wednesday, Kopila and Kumari spent the day spending money that they raised from generous family members and the ladies and the Cooperative on supplies for newly delivered women and babies; on soap, underpants, food. Really11225653_10206049344968244_1787834131_n practical stuff.  They bundle it up and sent it off to where it is needed.

Kopila’s husband Binod is just now returning from Nuwakot, one of the worst affected areas, where he 11208788_10206049344488232_583158397_nand family members distributed tents, tarpaulins, rice, salt, sugar and oil. As we said in another post, this is happening all over Nepal. People who have donated to Samunnat, please11216318_10206049342768189_647140314_n know that your money is going to where it is needed most right now.

Thank you. We are keeping on.

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I lived in Nepal for nearly four years and continue to visit for months each year. I’ve been here in eastern Nepal through the earthquakes and the initial response. This part of the country has not been devastated but people have been extremely scared and very saddened by what has happened elsewhere. We have mostly had an internet connection and have been able to follow the coverage from Australia and around the world. And I must say, it has concerned me. I almost felt physically ill when I read about Hugh Sheridan and a film crew flying over for the celebrity reunion. And I am concerned about the message people are getting. Australians could be forgiven for thinking that Nepalis are sitting hopelessly, waiting for international aid to save them under a government that is corrupt and obstructive. This is not true.

At one level Nepal was not prepared for the earthquake, but at another level, Nepalis are very well prepared. As another Australian in Nepal, Steve, wrote to me:

The Nepali people are resourceful people… They normally live with a poor electricity supply… They live with an overwhelmed mobile phone system and intermittent internet – they are used to gas shortages, bus strikes, monsoon rains, bad roads, noisy streets and hard beds. They don’t ‘tolerate’ these things, they simply live like this. Before there was any earthquake to make things bad – they already lived like this. They live like this and rarely complain, rarely get angry. The water supply dries up regularly, the drains block regularly, the monsoon stretches everyone in every direction. But this is all normal for them. Sharing a bed is not rare. Sleeping on the floor is common. Making do, when things don’t work out is normal daily living. There is nowhere in the world that I have been that is better prepared for an earthquake than Nepal.

Let me tell you what has been really happening in eastern Nepal.

Very poor people are being very generous. Where I work, women overcoming poverty and violence are donating everything they can. Their cooperative is donating thousands of rupees. Instead of getting frustrated about international donations of food and supplies getting stuck at the airport due to Customs processing, people are doing it themselves. Within days, my Nepali bhai Binod and friends had collected money, contacted locals on the ground, found out what was required, bought it and delivered it. 250 tents went to Gorkha. Food parcels and blankets to Kavre. Tomorrow, he and friends are travelling on a truck loaded with family food parcels. Not impractical things but 25kg bags of rice, sugar, salt, oil, chura (beaten rice) and biscuits. Their food parcels are what the locals want and know how to use. Not tuna fish and mayonnaise. The trucks and relief vehicles will go to the track heads, as far as they can. They are being met by locals, often part of JCI or Rotary groups, who then take them, on foot if necessary, to where they need to go. Targeted locations. People know they were sent and know they are coming. The people in unaffected areas buy the stuff and the people in affected areas tell them what they want. Then they deliver.

These stories are happening all over Nepal.

Any of us who have lived here know that Nepalis are extremely resourceful people. The scale of this disaster is huge and shattering. But the problems are not unknown here and the country has been through this before. They are not solely dependent on foreign governments and international aid organisations to bail them out. They don’t need unorganised volunteers and foreign media taking up seats on helicopters and using precious time and resources. They don’t need rescue and aid efforts that are driven by what outsiders want to supply rather than what they need. These things are delivered best by using existing networks and the considerable local knowledge of local people. I have seen how Nepalis can mobilise and work things out in a crisis – and that is what many Nepalis are doing right now.

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