Women’s Empowerment Through Development Activities

Context:
Women Acting Together for Change (WATCH) has been implementing “Rural/Indigenous Women’s Leadership for Ecosystem Management” in Harkapur, Okhaldhunga and Devichaur, Lalitpur for the last two years. This project focuses on changing dependency and begging attitudes of women leaders to be self reliant or stand on own feet. As most of the projects for supporting the earthquake victims of 2015 focused on providing immediate welfare which was needed, and building temporary and permanent shelters which are mostly hardware related. WATCH proposed a project to change dependency mentality created by the welfare, to raise awareness about imminent disasters which are quite frequent in Nepal and help them to initiate some measures for preparedness, to raise awareness about own family resources and community resources and initiate their management for prosperity, This all have to be done by the organizing rural women’s groups and building their capabilities.
Achievements until Now
The project designed was for October 2015 to September 2017 but because of blockades, political upheavals, elections, etc. there were some problems in smooth implementation of the project, so a three months no-cost extension was requested and approved; so the project will be completed in December 31, 2017.
1. The goal of the project was to prepare people to cope with frequent disasters through ecosystem management and disaster mitigation and preparedness. To achieve this goal takes time but to a certain extent women group members have become somewhat aware but need reinforcing. Micro or group level ecosystem management plans are prepared and some activities they could do by themselves had been done.
2. Raising awareness and changing attitude require reinforcing. These are not possible only by training. WATCH conducted training for women leaders and decided to have one-two day’s orientations in the women’s groups which have some impacts.
3. Mini level ecosystem management plans are prepared by all the women’s groups but they need to be consolidated. While making plans they became aware of possible disasters and tried to find ways to minimize and/or mitigate them.
4. In both the areas, women’s leadership trainings were conducted. Some leadership has emerged but they are accommodated by the political parties or various other development activities because in them there are some incentives and fame. This made women’s groups rather leaderless. All the women’s groups have prepared their charters and developed plans but they are not used to referring them and following them.
5. Poverty to prosperity exercises was conducted and some women have initiated actions to but it needs regular follow-up and support.
6. A system in women’s groups is developed which can move them to better situation to get services from other organizations also. Especially in Harkapur this is happening.
7. WATCH as an organization has also developed monitoring and tracking system which if properly used can give better pictures of the situation of the groups in the field
8. Women Group facilitators are an innovation which has shown good potentials to manage women’s groups and provide services.
Problems and Issues:
1. An assumption made by the project that women’s groups existed in the area was not true. Women were organized in groups but mostly for collecting savings which had created problems in the groups because of lack of accountability and transparency.
2. Many NGOs have been in Lalitpur because of which WATCH had stopped working there but going back WATCH found groups in name only. Harkapur did not have that many NGOs but after WATCH organized there are now 10 NGOs working there. Working style of NGOs also has created confusion in the groups.
3. Staff retention is a big issue because Government has created many positions and because of attractive salary, benefits and permanence every one prefers to join the government. With NGO experience they get better opportunity in the government also. So even working in the NGO they are always after government opportunities.
4. As there is a system of monitoring of expenses only, while trying to monitor daily activities, staff feels it quite cumbersome.
Scaling Up:
Based on the above analysis the following project is proposed for the next two years to consolidate what are achieved and scale up.
Problems and Issues to be addressed:
1. Distribution of freebies by government and NGOs culminating dependency, begging “I cannot do” mentality
2. Frequent disasters caused by manmade unplanned development activities and induced by climate change effects.
3. Migration of youth force abroad and abandoned family resources and misuse of community resources because of lack of planning.
4. Neglect of women causing extension services and development activities to gear towards men only which has detrimental negative effects on family and community resources.

Goal and Objectives:
The goal of the project is to bring prosperity by preparing people especially women to cope with frequent disasters through ecosystem management and disaster mitigation and preparedness, and proper management of family and community resources.
To achieve this goal the following objective are specified;
1. Focus on Attitude Change from dependency to self-reliance of women’s groups and families.
2. 25 existing Women’s groups strengthening and initiation of 25 more women’s groups
3. Capacity building of the Awake Nepali Rural Women’s Coalition as network of women’s groups.
4. Conduct and consolidate Poverty to Prosperity exercises focusing on agriculture and small enterprises.
5. Improve Ecosystem Management plans focussing on water recharge, rain water harvesting. Community resources management, Grass and fodder development. Soil improvement and management
Activities
1. Attitude change training to staff, women leaders and women’s groups. Process to be followed accordingly. No freebies. The training content will be of graphic story presentations, role plays, stories or events and participants will reflect on them and draw own conclusions against begging and dependency.
2. Poverty to prosperity exercise training and exercises with those who are willing and capable to do something using family resources. Mapping of family resources, available resources and potentials by transect walking, and developing plan of action to utilize potentialities leading gradually to enterprises.
3. 25 existing Women’s groups strengthening through visioning, planning, follow-up support to be the model women’s groups, and initiating 25 new women’s groups..
4. Ecosystem Management training to women leaders and ecosystem management plan development with women’s groups and community members by transect walking and resources mapping; and sharing with local elites, local governance agencies and NGOs for support.
5. Regular training of rural women agriculture facilitators to be demonstration farmers and seeds, seedlings, an inputs and technology suppliers.
6. Strengthening network and building capabilities of the Awake Nepali Rural Women Coalition.