My Nepal experience: Womankind's partners in action

Medina Rahman | Nov 06, 2018
Medina stands alongside Womankind partner Nepal Disabled Women's Association

In August 2018, Womankind ambassador Zulekha Rahman and her 18-year-old daughter Medina, joined by Director of Fundraising & Marketing Disha Sughand, ventured to Nepal to gain unique insights into the work of four of our country partners. In this guest blog, Medina shares her experience with us.  

 

With the breathtaking Himalayas looming above the plane as we landed, I knew immediately that visiting Nepal with Womankind Worldwide would be both a unique and memorable experience. With introductions to four of Womankind’s Nepali partners in under a week, it was sure to be a packed schedule with lots of learning ahView of Nepal from the airplaneead. Carrying a suitcase full of traditional English desserts through customs to show partners my appreciation, I arrived both excited and prepared. 

Our first meeting was with Durga Sob, the founder of Feminist Dalit Organization (FEDO) Nepal, who treated us to a wonderful lunch of momos (dumplings) after we landed. From her, I learnt that as a direct result of the caste system present in Nepal, Dalit women are considered untouchable. Consequently, 65% of the Dalit community in Nepal lives in poverty, with the majority comprising Dalit women. FEDO is made up of people from all different castes and genders, demonstrating that the best way to address the issue of social exclusion is social inclusion. Since being established, FEDO has increased their movement to 812 leaders and women activists in 56 of Nepal’s 77 districts, as well as having 150 Dalit women groups who have benefited directly from micro-finance projects. I was thrilled to see how these positive results have encouraged FEDO to continue combating the gender and caste discrimination that remain so prevalent.  

The second meeting I attended was with Nepal Disabled Women’s Association (NDWA), an organisation run by women with disabilities, for women with disabilities. In Nepal, women with disabilities are often seen as being punished for sinning in their previous lives causing them to be “deserving” of their disabilities and the unjust treatment that often ensues. For example, instead of having ramps installed to allow those in wheelchairs to use public transport, drivers may purposely drive away from those with disabilities, leaving them in the hot sun or monsoon rain. In response, NDWA advocates for and helps empower and build the capacity of women with disabilities, with 125 self-help groups and more than 2000 members across the country. Meeting NDWA and their members affirmed the picture that FEDO had drawn of the harsh situation that marginalised communities face every day in Nepal, with gender playing a major role.

We also met with Women for Human Rights (WHR), where I was further educated as to the realities of women in Nepal. Focusing on widows and single mothers who experience unique discrimination due to marital status, WHR facilitates 2,500 single women groups across the country, where women acquire training in agriculture, driving, and other areas. WHR has also had success changing laws and policy: for example, the Supreme Court recently overturned a policy whereby men were paid 50,000 rupees for marrying a wiMedina and Womankind partner WHR Nepaldow. Although WHR supports 100,000 single women, the census states that there are 600,000 single women in the country, meaning there are many others who have yet to be reached. However, thanks to organisations like WHR, the challenges faced by single women and widows are slowly but surely being brought to the attention of government and other stakeholders. 

The last meeting I went to was with the National Indigenous Women’s Federation (NIWF), which was created to unify the voices of not only Indigenous people, but Indigenous women in particular. Today, NIWF works in 63 out of 77 districts with a massive outreach, however they face many unique challenge that other organisations may not. For instance, the 59 Indigenous groups in Nepal speak many different languages, so communication is one major barrier. As well, many Indigenous women lack access to resources and are increasingly being displaced from their land due to the construction of hydropower plants. Moreover, Indigenous women’s issues are often overlooked by government, with few rights recognised in the new constitution. Ultimately, all of this serves to demonstrate the crucial importance of NIWF continuing their work. 

When it comes to the status of Nepali women, it is clear that there remains a long way to go. However, the organisations I have been privileged to meet with have been steadily working towards their visions since before I was even born. They have succeeded in bringing attention to the issues Dalit women face nationally and internationally, improved the political involvement and representation of marginalised communities, brought about legal change, and conduTraditional foodcted training programmes to help thousands of Nepali women have better futures. 

Overall, I have gained an irreplaceable insight into Nepali culture, society and the state of women in the country. However, the main message I am taking away is that what is most important is not the speed at which we are able to create the change, but the fact that we keep fighting to make such change. This is exactly what these Nepali organisations are doing. The dedication, courage and perseverance in their work is what makes them such an inspiration, and fills me with confidence that they are at the forefront of bringing about positive change in Nepal.

 

 


Go back