In Part 1 of our video series, Mahila Partnership President, Angela Devlen introduced Sabita, our now long-time partner and team leader in Nepal. Due the status of women and children in Nepal, Sabita is a strong health, nutrition, and disaster risk reduction advocate. She has experienced first-hand the impacts of reoccurring landslides in the areas where she works due to the steep mountainous terrain, poor vegetation, and annual monsoons.
In Part 2 of our video series, we dove deeper into the response to the 2015 Nepal earthquake. We also detailed the eco-organic agriculture project, which, before the earthquake, provided the rural villages of Panchkal and Chamrangbesi with more organic produce than they could eat. However, after the earthquake, rebuilding has been a slow, tough process. As we move forward, we aim to rebuild the organic agriculture site, as well as establish an eco-sanitary sewing coorporative, where women can receive feminine hygiene supplies, fair-wage employment, and education.
Part 3 of our videos series below.
In the grand scheme, Mahila Partnership focuses on partnership and investment. We work with organizations already established in the communities we serve. These organizations manage the project work with our collaboration and financial support. This began in Nepal in 2009 and continues to grow even in the wake of the earthquake.
Dollar-per-dollar, donations to Mahila partnership go further through the advantageous exchange rate of developing countries. Rather than collecting or purchasing items in the United States then shipping them to Nepal, our partner Eco Organic Nepal directly surveys, purchases, and distributes supplies needed by the villages we serve. Their knowledge of the culture and countryside helped them to be swift, direct, and economical in getting aid to rural villages that would have otherwise been missed.
By investing in local partners, we create a cycle of sustainable development. Rather than funding one-off solutions or quick fixes to a problem, we focus on the root cause of the problem. Prior to the earthquake,25% of Nepalese residents lived below the poverty line, which is less than $1.25 per day. Their access to water was tainted by hundreds of tons of waste from the capital city. In combination, lack of financial resources and clean water for washing make purchasing sanitary products and engaging in health feminine hygiene practices nearly impossible. We tailored our approach to address both of these root cause problems.
As we continue to help the residents of the rural villages recover, we are developing and implementing an eco-sanitary program to tackle a major problem that undercuts almost every area of economic and societal development: gender inequality. Women and girls in Nepal lack the necessary resources and education in order to live healthy, safe, educated, and productive lives throughout most of the rural nation. 30% of girls in Nepal miss school monthly due to their menstruation cycle, a problem which is exacerbated by lack of access to hygiene products, clean water for washing, and health education.
Societal taboos and misinformation, as well as the lack of health-oriented infrastructure in rural Nepal communities, keeps girls from completing a secondary and post-secondary education. This is detrimental to the economic state of Nepal, whose current GNI is just $730 per year. “Female education creates powerful poverty-reducing synergies and yields enormous intergenerational gains. It is positively correlated with increased economic productivity, more robust labor markets, higher earnings, and improved societal health and well-being.” (Mercy Tembon, 2008)
By starting small and by building sustainable, profitable, and productive sewing cooperatives, we will establish a place where women can gain feminine health and hygiene education, as well as increased access to sanitary pads. These pads will be made by local women, for local women, on the premises. Going even further, the materials used will be procured locally, diminishing the economic strain of shipping materials or paying tariff taxes.
This model has proven very successful through our work in Haiti with our partner organization Haiti Projects. Our early surveying and studies have shown an increase in menstrual health and feminine hygiene education, an increase in adherence to family planning, and a decrease in disease and unwanted pregnancy in the rural Haitian villages where we work. The economic growth has allowed us to expand the project to include “Ambassadors” or “Avon Ladies,” as we call them, who make a business selling the handmade sanitary pads to women in the community.
In Nepal, we hope to measure an increase in education surrounding feminine health and hygiene, decrease the amount of time rural girls miss school due to menstruation, and increase the economic productivity through the sale of extra handmade sanitary pads, similar to the sale of extra organic produce through the organic agriculture project.
This post originally appeared on: GANM Blogs
Mahila Musings: Nepal, Part 3