In January, I had a chance to meet some women leaders in Raising Her Voice project in Nepal. The five-year project, which ended in March 2012, empowered women at the village level to engage effectively in decision making processes and claim their rights.
After a few hours along the curvy road in Surkhet district, we finally reached Chhhinchu village, tucked away down the slope. I was blown away by the picturesque view of the village in front of me – mud houses painted in ivory colour and hay stacks sitting among green terraced paddy fields, sprinkled with the bright yellow colour of mustard flowers.
A group of almost twenty women leaders, greeted us with flower garlands and red bindhi, painted on our foreheads as a wish of luck before guiding us into the ‘meeting room’, a small room no larger than 12 square meters. I later found out that the room is actually a part of one of the women’s house used as a gathering space for them.
After we introduced ourselves, the women started telling their stories of change – personal stories how they have overcome discrimination and challenges, and successfully claimed their civil rights. One by one, confidence and pride shone in their faces. Their voice was loud and clear, and sometimes got even louder as their story progressed.
There was Pushpa, a 22 years old girl who is considered by her friends and family as ‘too old’ because she is still single. She is studying to become a public health person. Together with other women, they successfully advocated the Village Development Committee and secured a budget of 45,000 NPRs to construct a road in the village. “If women really want something, they can make it happen,” she said.
Then there was Ramkumari, who went out of her village for the first time in her life at her 40’s to an exposure visit in Pokhara, meeting and talking to other women group there. She was so nervous she forgot her name when the group was going around to introduce themselves. Today she is nothing but quiet when it comes to her rights. “We should not be scared to speak up,” she said. More »