On the Path of Social Awareness, Transformation and Justice
Women Acting Together for Change (WATCH) is a women’s Non Governmental Organization established in March 8, 1992. WATCH advocates for self-reliant, right based and participatory development rather than development that creates dependency. WATCH believes that imposed and donated development is neither sustainable nor desirable. By raising awareness about social inequities and discriminations, WATCH has been encouraging local poor, women, exploited people and people with disabilities to organize themselves to develop short-term and long-term development plans. Through various activities WATCH supports rural women to become economically self-reliant, and empowered. WATCH focuses on increase in their self-esteem, self-confidence and self-respect; and organizational capacity building.
WATCH facilitates process to help local poor and disadvantaged women identify their own resources, knowledge, skills, capabilities, and needs; based on which they develop their own plans. WATCH strongly believes that if opportunity is provided poor, women and disadvantaged communities can contribute to processes and programs of community development.
Currently, WATCH has been implementing its processes through community development and primary health care services in different areas of Rupandehi, Kapilvastu, Nawalparasi, Okhaldhunga, Lalitpur and Kathmandu districts.
Advocacy Program for Access and Rights over Local Resources
People of Ghumsa, Dandagaun and Dhanepu of Okhaldhuga were denied of access to drinking water even though pipes of the system went right through their yards and fields, They had to walk one hour to fetch water. They decided to start a campaign to demand water for them, as the result of which they were able to get drinking water system with technical and financial support from WATCH, District Development Committee, Village Development Committees, and Drinking Water Office. With one reservoir and 19 taps they distributed water. WATCH raised awareness about their rights, helped form user groups and provided necessary financial support.
Similarly, people from Dhanepu and Dandagaun in Okhaldhunga were living for years in a fear of being washed away by the landslides. WATCH helped them raised their issues from village, district as well as central levels. They were resettled in a new area with technical and financial support from WATCH, District Development Committee. Village Development Committees and financial support from the British Embassy.
Women from Bhairab Tole in Rupandehi came out on the street when they were denied of drinking water promised by the Village Development Committee. They went out in procession with banging water pots and pans, and encircled the VDC office. They were able to be successful to get four tube-wells including one from WATCH. WATCH raised awareness of women’s groups about their rights and helped them organize.
WATCH emancipated 33 families in Rupandehi, who were exploited by the landlord as bonded labor for years. WATCH made an arrangement with the local Village Development Committee to resettle them so that they can live free and human life. For this also, WATCH raised their consciousness, organized them and provided necessary inputs including wages.
Awareness Raising Against Girls Trafficking, and HIV/AIDS/STI Education Program
WATCH has been involved in HIV/AIDS and STI awareness program since its inception. WATCH also has been taking actions against girls trafficking. WATCH has been mobilizing participation of local communities and organizations for this purpose by organizing awareness camps, street drama, folk song competitions and so on.
With participation of 15 national and international women’s rights organizations, WATCH organized a Public Hearing of trafficked girls in 1995. This initiated a dialogue on women’s rights over ancestral property. The state was compelled to rethink about the existing legal provisions regarding women’s rights over property.
WATCH developed a ten year long comprehensive HIV/AIDS awareness program which comprised of awareness through camps, school education, literacy classes, support to already infected people, and VCT. Under this program WATCH provided support to trafficked girls and HIV+, and initiated community based support. Later WATCH developed a program for Behavior Change Communication and implemented in three districts of Nepal. The main outcome of this is organizations of sex workers and HIV+s. They have been playing critical roles now as social mobilizers and peer support. Recently, WATCH is trying out comprehensive program with BCC, VCT, and Community and Home Base Care in two districts. Girls trafficking in its own area is almost stopped because of awareness through women’s groups.
Violence Against Women and Girls
Primary Health Care Program
WATCH plans to involve local communities in making health related services and facilities available at their doorsteps. WATCH has been making such services available since its inception. WATCH emphasizes on prevention than treatment. For which, WATCH raises awareness of communities regarding family and community health and environmental sanitation. WATCH had a clinic cum laboratory in Kathmandu with services of a doctor but it is stopped now WATCH has three offices and mobile clinics in its area. Health and nutritional status of women and children has improved because of deworming camps organized in the communities every six months. WATCH started this in 1992, for which it was criticized but now almost all organizations including government is organizing deworming camps.
Community Based Development Program
WATCH has been providing knowledge, skills and technology to promote self-reliant development by helping communities identify and mobilize locally available materials and resources. Agriculture technology is shared and promoted through agriculture field schools. Each year 25 model and leader farmers are trained all around the year in Rupandehi district. WATCH has been providing technical know-how and financial support for mushroom production, banana plantation, fish raising, and seasonal and off-season vegetable gardening. WATCH promotes organic farming by training them to use urine, green and liquid manure; mulching; and providing necessary advice to use locally available materials to control and prevent insects and diseases rather than pesticides. Gradually, this has helped improve fertility which has resulted in increased productivity and livelihood.
WATCH has supported women’s groups to conduct action oriented non-formal education classes. WATCH has developed its own curriculum and teaching materials based on local needs and interest. WATCH has conducted more than 400 such classes. WATCH also conducts post-literacy classes for neo-literates. WATCH has developed a packet of interactive materials for this purpose.
WATCH supports women’s groups federations to provide interest free investment for income generation and loan to protect poor people from loan sharks. Women’s federations provide such support to groups and individual members on minimum interest, 50% of which goes to federation and group each. This kind of WATCH’s support has not only protected people from loan sharks but also helped preserving their land and huts. This has also initiated habit of making income, regular saving, and selling products. WATCH works with eight rural women’s federations having about 272 women’s groups and 5500 members. By now, WATCH has provided more than Rs. 10 million in investment, most of which are realized.
Formation and Capacity Building of Women’s Groups and Federations
Because of socio-cultural system, poor and disadvantaged women face violence, oppression, contempt, exploitation from the family as well as the community. Thus they loose their self-esteem and self-respect. WATCH plays critical role to organize, mobilize and strengthen groups of such women so that they can solve their own problems.
Until now, WATCH has formed 272 women’s groups, 70 children’s groups and 35 groups of people with disabilities, and hundreds of community forestry user groups in its area. In which more than 5500 families are directly involved.
WATCH has supported forming of federations and capacity building of such groups. There are eight federations. national level organizations like Our Iron Fists, Jaagriti Mahila Sangh (sex workers’ organization), Asha Jyoti Sahayog Samaj and Samuha (PLHA organization), District Organization of disable people, etc. in Rupandehi and Okhaldhunga area. Similar Federations and organizations are formed in other areas also. WATCH has helped these federations and organizations to get financial support from national and international donors. Seven of these federations have built their own office buildings with support from WATCH and local government agencies. WATCH is mobilizing these organizations to implement its process and programs.
WATCH has been supporting them in planning, implementation and monitoring to make their activities effective and transparent. During the planning process, attempts are made to identify locally available resources, make resource and social maps, conduct transect walks, look for possibilities and so on. After that a five year visioning and one year action plan are developed with participation of group members. Based on the yearly plan monthly action plans are developed for implementation and monitored regularly. Recently, women’s groups and federations are focusing on violence, rape and stigma on women. They are taking actions by themselves and even taking cases to the police and court. Just recently, an uncle who raped an eight year old girl was given 10 years prison for rape, three years for incest, and half of the property to victim by the court. There was a tremendous pressure from all sides to withdraw the case. Women’s groups and federations took very active part in making citizenship certificates and having vital registrations. They are also involved in tenancy rights and preparing for the Constituent Assembly election.
Capacity Building of Non Governmental Organizations
WATCH has been helping local and national level organizations for their capacity building. For this WATCH has been providing support and training for formation and registration of organization, organizational development, and proposal writing. WATCH also helps them to build relationship with national and international donors.
WATCH has designed and implemented training on HIV/AIDS/STI Awareness and Prevention, Natural Resources Management, Integrated Community Development, Primary Health Care Services, Participatory Development, Gender Awareness and Mainstreaming. Similarly, WATCH has designed and provided training and coaching to various organizations on group formation and mobilization, gender and equity, dialogue skills, training of trainers, proposal writing, report writing, behavior change communication, facilitation for community forestry user groups formation, leadership development, organizational assessment and development, etc.
Natural Resources Management
WATCH believes that Nepal is rich of natural resources and only local users can manage them properly. So WATCH has been making local users aware about their rights for protection, management and utilization of natural resources; and organizing them as user groups. WATCH has played very critical and successful role to organize. strengthen and capacity building of national level federations of community forestry users (FECOFUN), irrigation users (NFIWUAN), women users (HIMAWANTI), and rural women (Our Iron Fists). WATCH has been advocating and facilitating for formulation of proper policies and regulations for favoring communities to enable them to manage their resources. WATCH has been lobbying and advocating in favor of communities in local, national and international levels. WATCH has helped create Environment and Community Forest Concerned Group in Terai Districts, Terai Community Forestry Action Team (NGOs for community forestry) and Community Forestry Supporters’ Network (COFSUN). It helped FECOFUN establish governance in its district committees and also user groups.
Resource Centre Management
WATCH has been managing resource centers in its central office and site offices for use of its staff and general public. Also, local animators are making resources available through mobile libraries. These resource centers have materials available on HIV/AIDS and STI, agriculture, health, livestock, community development, natural resources management, women’s rights and gender. Besides, newspapers and magazines, proceedings, manuals, videos, information-education-communication materials, etc. are also available. WATCH publishes these materials and sells them based on capacity to buy them. It has become an income source for WATCH.
Girls’ Scholarship and Education for Girls Who Missed Their Schooling
WATCH has been identifying girls who cannot afford to go to schools in its area and supporting them to go to schools through its scholarship program. It has been providing scholarships to more than 400 girls from poor families. WATCH has created a special fund for this and various organizations and WATCH’s friends have been contributing to this fund. WATCH makes a negotiation with the parents to provide educational environment to the girls, in lieu, WATCH provides them interest free investment and skills for income generation.
WATCH has arranged non-formal based classes for school-aged girls who had missed their schooling. WATCH has conducted 30 such classes in its area. More than 450 girls from such classes have joined formal schools. WATCH provides non-formal training to school