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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Kopila writes:

April 27, 2015 · 5 comments

I am Kopila here and it is Monday evening. An hour and a half ago we had another earthquake (6.5). We were at home when it came and we all ran outside. People are still very scared to go inside buildings and some people are sleeping outside or in their cars. After a while, I had to go to our new Samunnat building to get something and at first I was nervous but when Sharmila and I went up our steps, we both felt calm and I made myself believe that nothing will happen to me in this building because it is so full of blessings. When Sharmila said “Didi, why not we turn on the lights on our roof?” we did and when we looked at it from the ground again we both said “This is our Samunnat and it is alive.” And we both felt to cry but it was because of love not of our fear. I also want to tell people that it is not just our building to sit in there. It is our everything. It is our place of dreaming and love and so many hopes are in there. I just want people to know it is not just a concrete building. We are so happy to have it. Thank you all for all the comments and not just only comments but the feeling that the comments show us.

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Earthquake aftermath

April 25, 2015

From my other blog at After The Monsoon:

This is a very sad and hard post to write and I am writing it in case people are checking in here to see that I am OK and that my darling friends and family over here are safe. First of all, yes we are. We were terribly frightened here in the east and can only begin to imagine how much more terrifying it must have been closer to the epicentre. We experienced two major quakes which caused power poles to sway and we all ran out of the building where we were working. Some of the ladies here have supersonic quake detectors and we were out of that building faster than you can imagine. At the first mere rumble, which could have been a bike going past, two or three shouted Earthquake to the rest of us and we were downstairs and out.  With the people from all the houses around us, we watched and waited. People texting and messaging to see what was happening and where the epicentre was.

It felt like being on a ship in really rough seas and seemed to go on for a long time but obviously was shorter than it felt! We returned to work after the first quake but after the second one, every one was too jumpy and nervous so we all went home to watch the tragedy unfold.  People wanted to be with their families if anything else happened.

Last night, we put off going to bed in a way.  Some watched the news in horror. Kopila and I tried to busy ourselves with things that needed to be done, orders to write up, talks to prepare, anything to put off going to bed and waiting. We kept reading the Samunnat Facebook page and all the messages of love and support. Cried. We all slept downstairs, piling into two rooms. And this morning, there was that initial sense of Was that a nightmare? and then the reality that in this country I love so much, there is so much loss of life and destruction. The death toll is 1500 and rising and magnificent history crumbled and lost.

I must confess that I am glad I am not heading to Kathmandu immediately.  In both the office building and the home here, we have an open field opposite and are not surrounded by high buildings. We have somewhere open to run to.  We will work today. Government offices will be shut for three days but the thought of sitting around fearfully waiting, as one of our supporters on Facebook so aptly described it, is too awful. We will keep going and just hope that recovery can be underway soon.

Thank you everyone for caring.

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Earthquake update

April 25, 2015 · 1 comment

We are OK. So is our building! This is a dreadfully sad day for our country and the death toll is rising. There are fears that nearly 1000 people have died and many have been injured and left homeless. We were lucky. Or hearts go out to those who weren’t. Please see the Facebook page for details. Thank you for caring. https://www.facebook.com/pages/A-Colourful-Journey/448157535250078

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Visiting politicians

April 14, 2015

Our office was recently visited by Gagan Thapa, an MP from the Congress Party. He Politician 2spent a surprising amount of time with us and seemed genuinely interested in our work at many levels. He was fascinated by the polymer work and was very encouraging about our advocacy, legal and income generation projects.  He even thought he had seen our khursani mala (chilli necklace) in Germany!

The ladies introduced themselves and were able to talk about issues that were important Gagnto them. They were so confident and empowered to speak and spoke so clearly and well to him.  This is the first time that a politician has visited our office.  He was amazed at what we were doing and commented on how different it was from other NGOs.

GTKopila spoke to him about our desires and plans to educate the women about sexual health issues and she was very impressed by his understanding of the issues and his awareness that a very positive action was to train mothers.  He mentioned that he was a guest at the inauguration of a sexual health program in Kathmandu.

We were very encouraged by his interest and his visit.

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We go through pasta machines at a rate of knots. People with varying degrees of experience and familiarity with tools use them which means that handles can be inserted Pasta onewrongly, things are forced rather than fitted and then there is simply the amount of wear and tear that comes with very, very regular use.  They become creaky, noisy, ineffective or simply stop working.  And they were heavy to lug over from Australia as only very poor quality machines are available in Nepal.

We decided that we needed to look at quality vs quantity and recently purchased a Dream Machine from Polymer Clay Express. Waiting for it to arrive was a slightly nervy time as sometimes interesting looking parcels don’t but it made it.  And we love it.  Ideally we will eventually have two as we are now working on a very long table and usually have 9 ladies in action.  For now, this is fantastic and we are very happy that we can clean the machine so easily too.

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