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We hope you are enjoying our short series of posts and finding them interesting. This is number 4 and we have one more after this.
Many years ago now, we helped start a small micro-finance cooperative. We provided rooms and staff and the support to help it get going. In the early days it was quite hard to get the required numbers and we struggled to get 30. Many people were unsure about us because many of us were divorced and whether we would be an enduring Cooperative. When we got our proper building, people knew we are here to stay and now we have grown to 700 members with 500 shareholders. Samunnat still provides a room in our building but the Cooperative pays for its staff and the Cooperative board (separate to Samunnat Nepal) makes decisions about loans. This Board includes women who have been supported by Samunnat Nepal. Until recently, only very small loans we possible as we are a poor community and help many people.
Recently the Samunnat Board decided to have revolving loans which means that they lend money to the Cooperative interest free so that the cooperative can make slightly bigger loans when they think this will be useful. One lady who benefitted from this is now managing a kirana basal (general shop) in one of the shops we built next to our building. She used the loan to stock the shop and establish herself in our community which is going because of lots of new building. She is very happy to be working in her job.
Often, the only two options available to girls living in poverty is early arranged marriage or unsafe and poorly paid labouring work and often, either of these options would make them very vulnerable. We see part of our role as PREVENTION and this story highlights that!
KS lived in a border community some 40km from our office. She was from a family of 7- a mother and 5 daughters with only one son. Of the girls, KS really wanted to study but her mother couldn’t afford to send her to school. She decided to leave home, get work asa labourer and pay for her education. Labouring work is often unsafe and puts young girls in very vulnerable situations. As Kopila writes: she is so brave girl she left her home and start to find the place where she can earn and study.
She watched the pink uniformed Samunnat ladies as they passed where she was labouring and after her work she asked our Durga in the tailoring office about Samunnat. Durga told her she must come to us for help and she did! We have organised her accommodation and she is now attending a government school where we don’t have to pay monthly fees but can spend extra money on coaching, uniform, study facilities and food. She now has admission in class 9.
KS is determined to get an education and has shown incredible courage to get this far. We can help prevent KS from becoming another statistic in Nepal’s record of women who have experienced violence. We are excited to see what happens next for KS.
In theory class is illegal in Nepal but in practice it exists very strongly. Samunnat Nepal works so hard to break down class barriers and to obtain rights for women whatever their class. Today we tell you about a really enterprising and courageous young lady who from the Dalit community. She is happy for us to share her story. Parbata was experiencing abuse and moved back to live with her mother. Soon after, she came to our office for help. Surprisingly, she has completed year 12 at school. This is a high achievement. Kopila writes: I asked her about her interest and she said she want to have training in Radio Journalism. So I talked with a Radio FM coordinator. He was very positive and called her in his FM station. He agreed to offer some training and Samunnat Nepal will provide her with a bicycle and some khaja (food) money.
Parbata wants to use her job to encourage and empower women and make programs to tell them their rights.
We thought over the next few days that we would share some really encouraging things that are happening. Samunnat exists to help women who are vulnerable and often the most powerful way we can help is to ensure they can be educated. Women who are educated are more likely to know their rights and are less likely to marry young. If they can read, they can learn and fight for justice if required.
You may recall us writing about Ekshan whose mum could not afford to pay her school fees while she was pursuing justice and compensation. Her school were saying she had to leave. Thanks to the Staedtler FIMO donation we were able to pay her fees so that she could continue schooling and sit her IRON GATE exams, the big exams that take place at the end of Class ten.
Ekshan studied really hard and passed very well. We were all so proud and happy. We decided to help Ekshan gain admission to college and now she has been accepted into one of our local colleges who are going to meet us half way with school fees.
Well done Ekshan and thank you to the staff at her College!
On Instagram and Facebook we have been posting photos of our Kids’ Centre. This has been work in progress for quite some time now. We know that for many women affected by violence, getting training or attending court is really hindered by lack of child care. In a good situation, women have the support of extended family but most of our ladies are not in a good situation! We want to provide them with the opportunity to access affordable and quality child care. Montessori based child care centres are springing up like mushrooms in Nepal and Birtamod is no exception. Some of these are great and some of these are run purely as businesses. Just like many schools and hospitals here. Most are way beyond the means of our ladies.
We decided to transform our downstairs room into a child care centre. Samunnat Nepal helped Maya to do her Montessori training In Kathmandu and she is ready to start work. Muna, another Samunnat client, is able to be an assistant and an itinerant artist was happy to paint a mural for board and chiya. She got Kalpana and Bishnu involved too!
We worked out policies and costs and requirements and after months of the work the first enrolments have been taken! We have a capacity for ten children and there is the potential for occasional child care as well. We love hearing the sounds of the kids as they play downstairs and Manisha, one of our clay artists, loves the convenience of having her little one close and well care for! In this photo she is completing her registration forms.
Our dream is to have a purpose built child care centre but this is a way off. We would like to combine it with more accommodation as we are now filled to capacity and the need for short-medium term accommodation is increasing. But that is a whole other post!