Research Project

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In the winter of 1998 WF began researching the situation of women in the Kailali district in the far western part of Nepal. This district is mostly rural, particularly ethnically diverse as it includes a range of terrain from the Terai to the Himalayas, and representative of the situation of many women in Nepal. A core research team made of WF members first developed a thorough questionnaire that addressed violence from mental and emotional torture, to abuse associated with menstruation, to spousal abuse with the help of other Nepali organizations who had also done large research studies. After a test distribution of the questionnaire and appropriate changes, the research team went to the Kailali district to meet with district officers and advisors to help them carry out their research. They broke the district into regional categories and randomly chose villages to visit where they would give their questionnaires. With the help of translators to read the questionnaires and record the women’s answers trained in an orientation program run by WF, we amassed a large amount of data on the area. (Translators were necessary because almost all women in this district are illiterate and many do not speak much Nepali, but retain their native tongue.) What we found is that violence in the Kailali district is widespread to the point where the women almost assume that it will happen to them or someone they know. Many women have been violently beaten, and some have been driven to commit suicide. The write-up for this project has been released in Nepali but is currently being completed in English.

Surabhi Health Clinic

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In 2003 the Women’s Foundation opened the Surabhi Health Clinic in Kathmandu . The Clinic was founded to provide affordable health care with a particular emphasis on addressing the health needs of women and children who are survivors of violence.

Nepali women face many obstacles in accessing health care resources. Resistance to male health caregivers, cultural norms limiting mobility, expectations that women stay at home with their family and lack of economic means to get to clinics, are but a few of the obstacles to the effective delivery of health care services. These challenges are not restricted to women living in villages, but also confront women in the city.

For a period of time each day the Surabhi Clinic is exclusively available to shelter residents, offering a gynaecologist, child specialist and general doctor who each work two days a week and are assisted by 4 nurses. A pharmacist works at the clinic 6 days a week. After this time it is open to the public who are charged fees dependent on their capacity to pay. The clinic was developed on the same model as the Bipul Shikshya Niketan School as a low cost service to the local community.

The women feel safe at the clinic knowing that the service is confidential and that they are surrounded by women only. This is yet another enterprising initiative and is a practical example of WF’s vision to provide high quality low cost services to women. WF is seeking donations from individuals to support the establishment costs of the clinic and through the anticipated increase in the number of fee-paying customers, it is expected that the clinic will become sustainable along the same lines as the primary school.

MOBILE HEALTH CLINIC

In November 2004 WF organised a 12-day Mobile Health Clinic which visited villages in 3 districts in Eastern Nepal ; namely Sunsari, Morang and Jhapa. The Clinic comprised two dentists from Germany , two local doctors, a pharmacist from WF’s pharmacy in Kathmandu and, where possible, a gynaecologist, all of whom worked in a voluntary capacity providing free medical care to the local people. WF’s Pharmacist, Alina Kharel (who was one of the first residents at the shelter and achieved top marks in her Pharmacy degree at Kathmandu University ), organized for medicine to be donated from local drug manufacturers, which was distributed free of charge in accordance with prescriptions issued by the doctors.

The dentists averaged around 50 patients per day, while the doctors averaged 100 patients per day. Using local people and WF volunteers as translators, the dentists were able to educate each patient about correct cleaning technique, which is crucial to preventing tooth problems. The Clinic was very successful and WF hopes to be able to arrange additional health camps in the future.

HEART OPERATION A SUCCESS

Early in 2003 the Women’s Foundation appealed to supporters for donations to assist a woman who was in need of a heart operation. WF was overwhelmed with support from around the world, raising sufficient funds to cover the costs of the heart operation as well as supporting others who required surgery of a minor nature. The operations were a success and the women have been able to lead a healthy life thanks to the contributions of WF’s many supporters around the world.

Education

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LEGAL EDUCATION

Legal Education is conducted at the national level to put pressure on the government to improve its court system and change its discriminatory laws. At the same time, WF holds workshops to inform women about existing discrimination within the Nepali legal system and the kinds of rights that are left protected and unprotected by it. The informal programs inspire women to form groups, working toward common goals.

FINANCIAL EDUCATION

Financial Education is provided in non-formal classes, where the practical issues of financial management and the basic principles of running a business are discussed. The skills that are taught include opening a bank account, creating budgets, and learning to monitor production expenditures and turnover. WF integrates skill enhancement programs with financial management training, so that women can be truly self-sufficient.

ADULT LITERACY CLASSES

WF conducts non-formal literacy programs for men and women. Our participants in the classes are of ages ranging from 15 to 50 or 60. There is no maximum age limit. The main objective of these programs is not to get the participants admitted to a formal school, but to teach language through practical discussions. Essentially, the programs are designed to teach functional literacy skills applicable to daily village life. WF believes that a theoretical discussion of language would not be nearly as effective, and would frustrate participants enough to leave the program. The literacy program includes information about violence against women and human rights. The opportunity to raise awareness about women’s issues is made all the more important as many of the classes have male students.

The Women’s Foundation is running about 30 non formal classes for the adult women of the society. In each group there are about 20 women. In this way there are more than 600 women who are presently getting the opportunity to learn to read and write. The informal classes in the district are being provided to those women who are not very capable of doing her work, due to illiteracy. These women are the women who did not get the chance to start their own business from the revolving fund that the Women’s Foundation has provided. After having learnt to read and write, the Women’s Foundation will give them the opportunity to start their business from the revolving fund. In this way the Women’s Foundation is providing equal opportunities to the women of the village for their empowerment. The women targeted for the informal classes are basically the poor and disadvantaged communities of the particular district.

Instead of memorization and hard and fast grammar rules, participants learn to read and write as they learn to coordinate and work in a group. Some groups choose to design their curriculum to be similar to our skills training programs. We encourage this active participation in deciding how the group will learn language skills. We also fully support the exchange of information and skills among participants so that people can learn in an open atmosphere, sharing ideas. All of our classes, no matter how they weight their lessons, will learn about the Nepali legal system, environmental issues, gender issues, and will talk about social problems. In this way, the participants learn to read and write in a way that seems practical and sensible to the group. We also offer post-literacy classes, which ensure greater retention of skills over time.

CHILD LITERACY CLASSES

WF also conducts non-formal literacy classes for children. These classes are designed for children between the ages of 8 and 15, and are designed somewhat differently than the adult literacy classes. They are offered to children who have had no opportunity for school, but they assume that with some basic training, these children could be admitted to a formal school to continue their education. Our classes are intensive: they take place in the morning, two hours a day, six days a week. These children can learn very quickly, and after only nine months, many of them are ready to attend school. At this point, we shift our focus from basic reading and writing to skills necessary for attending school. Because our program is non-formal, it is run very differently from schools, and therefore the children need some orientation and training about how they will be expected to behave if their admission is to be successful.

For the next three months, we run this “discipline training,” called a Bridging Course. After the full year has been completed, children who apply for admission and are accepted will go to formal schools. Children who are not accepted stay with the WF facilitator and learn practical skills in a program very similar to our skills development training.

GENDER WORKSHOPS

Gender Workshops conducted by WF are designed to raise awareness of gender issues in Nepali society and to give participants the practical skills needed to change their circumstances. The training programs are adapted to be appropriate for a wide range of participants, including the general population, community leaders, and future gender workshop facilitators. The workshops discuss power dynamics in relationships between women and men, the current situation of women throughout the country, and the specific issues that participants face. If the participants are rural women, illustrations are used to emphasize the points being made. Many women who attend these trainings are isolated in their village and assume that women around the world must endure the same hardships that they face. The gender workshops attempt to dispel these assumptions. Workshops conducted for political, cultural, and social leaders aim to analyze the same problems from a political and policy point of view. In these workshops, international laws and examples from other countries are used to stress the need for change in Nepal.
WF works in coordination with many GOs, NGOs and INGOs to address gender issues at a national level. The Foundation believes that to effectively empower women, a series of integrated programs should be conducted in cooperation with national and international organizations working toward a similar mission.

HYGIENE & SANITATION PROGRAMS

Many areas of Nepal, both rural and urban, have poor hygiene and sanitation. However, five districts in the mid and eastern regions of the country have especially poor hygiene and sanitation education and facilities. WF focuses our efforts in these areas, where we teach people about the problems caused by lack of hygiene and sanitation. In addition to increasing awareness, we also teach practical skills that will help the participants improve their situation. In several classes, we taught participants from several villages to make a sturdy toilet at a proper distance from their food and water sources. We then held a competition for the participants and judged who built the best toilet over the course of a month. At the end of the competition the winner is recognized, and all members of the group is encouraged to spread this knowledge to others.

ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION

Deforestation is a critical issue in Nepal causing increased work and hardship in women’s lives, breakdown of ecosystems, loss of biodiversity, decreased agriculture production and thus food security, and weakening of community stability. We organize community discussion groups on this issue and the preservation of forests, promote regulations for sustainable forest use, and form women’s committees to protect village forests. We have actively planted trees during the course of our programs, and many village groups have continued to re-plant bare slopes after our discussions.

Gender Workshops

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Gender Workshops conducted by WF are designed to raise awareness of gender issues in Nepali society and to give participants the practical skills needed to change their circumstances. The training programs are adapted to be appropriate for a wide range of participants, including the general population, community leaders, and future gender workshop facilitators. The workshops discuss power dynamics in relationships between women and men, the current situation of women throughout the country, and the specific issues that participants face. If the participants are rural women, illustrations are used to emphasize the points being made. Many women who attend these trainings are isolated in their village and assume that women around the world must endure the same hardships that they face. The gender workshops attempt to dispel these assumptions. Workshops conducted for political, cultural, and social leaders aim to analyze the same problems from a political and policy point of view. In these workshops, international laws and examples from other countries are used to stress the need for change in Nepal.

WF works in coordination with many GOs, NGOs and INGOS to address gender issues at a national level. The Foundation believes that to effectively empower women, a series of integrated programs should be conducted in cooperation with national and international organizations working toward a similar mission.

Witch-Hunting Awareness Program

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Often widows in Nepal are termed BOKSHI, or witches, and are subject to extreme abuse and discrimination. This practice continues, evidenced by the death in June 2001 of a woman killed during an attack provoked by those in her village who accused her of witch-craft.

These atrocious acts occur because people believe that these women, once widowed, harbor evil powers to harm themselves and others. These accusations however, are derived from unfounded superstitions. Many of the victims have led very difficult lives, and once accused of being a ‘bokshi’, are beaten, tortured, or forced to commit degrading acts such as eating human waste, or the meat of other humans.

Much of the work WF does with witch-hunting is simply raising awareness. Though witch-hunting is widespread throughout Nepal, there are certain areas where accusations are more common, and we concentrate our efforts in these regions. WF members who are living in the area support people to stop that violence by speaking out against it if they become aware of a situation where a woman is being accused of practicing witchcraft. Many cases of witchcraft grow out of lack of education. As long as people who realize that witch-hunting is superstition are silent, the accusations will continue. But when people hear that a woman is in fact innocent, they are much less likely to abuse her. This type of work is informal and ongoing; part of the “community watch” that WF members keep.

WF also conducts organized trainings to teach people that witch-hunting is a superstitious practice. These trainings occur during our adult non-formal education classes: legal education and literacy programs. During these classes, WF devotes one day specifically to addressing the issues of witch-hunting. Class participants are informed about the victim’s situations, accusations, and tortures that the victims face. In this organized way, WF spreads the message that this is a particularly bad form of violence against women.

In cases where women are being abused for “practicing witchcraft,” WF directly supports the victims by removing them from that dangerous situation, treating them medically if necessary, and supporting them legally to file a case against their accusers.

In December 2001, a series of cassette tapes were made. These tapes recorded the stories and issues faced by Nepali widows, and were distributed widely in the remote areas of Nepal, along with tape players. It is hoped that through education, awareness of what damage this superstitious belief has upon widows will be increased, thereby reducing incidences of abuse.

In 2003 WF received partial funding to record a docu-drama to raise public awareness about the plight of widows in Nepal. The docu-drama has been queued to be screened on national television and WF is hopeful that this screening will take place during 2004.

Narmaya; an account of witch hunting in Nepal

Susma, a general member of the WF called the office, her voiced filled with terror. She told me in a very scared voice that some people from a village near to hers were beating Narmaya and they were going to kill her. She thought that Narmaya would die if she didn’t get immediate help. The people beating Narmaya were doing so because they believed she was a witch. We immediately sent Renu Sharma, then Secretary General, to Kavre district, about an hour outside of Kathmandu. There Renu met Susma and they walked another 45 minutes to reach the village where the torture was taking place.

When they got to the village they found Narmaya lying on the path near a very small hut. There was a little child of about 5 years old sitting close to her and crying. Narmaya was vomiting blood and her body was limp. They also noticed that she had faeces in her mouth, which must have been forced into her by the people beating her. They tried to wake her but she was unconscious and trembling. Susma stayed with Narmaya whilst Renu went to call on the support of the villagers to bring her to hospital. None of the villagers showed any interest in helping. They generally said that they were too busy to help. There were only twenty families staying in this village and none of them were willing to help.

So Renu ran back to where she had left her motorbike, and after about a 25 minute ride, she reached the main road. She hired two men to help her bring Narmaya to the main road and bought a blanket on the way back to Narmaya’s village. They used the blanket to make a stretcher using branches and, with the support from the two men, they carried Narmaya to the main road. There they hired a taxi and drove her to the Bir Hospital in Kathmandu.

The hospital was able to save Narmaya’s life and after a week of treatment she recovered enough to leave. Narmaya was then taken to the WF shelter in Boudha where she stayed with for one month. Renu gave Narmaya counseling whilst she was staying at the shelter, and before she left, a job was organized at a handicraft centre. Narmaya is still working at the centre.

Following the incident, WF organized a group of members to conduct two separate street theatre plays in the village where Narmaya had been tortured. It was an attempt to create awareness amongst the villagers of the injustice of such violence. Renu herself visited the village on several occasions to talk to the villagers about the incident and to further raise awareness on the inhumane practice of witch hunting.

Street and stage theatre

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In many Nepali villages, theatre has proven to be one of the best ways to raise awareness about witch hunting, girl trafficking, and women’s and girls’ rights to health, education, and legal inheritance, among other social issues. These plays are performed in the street square or in villages, and attract crowds of curious on-lookers who talk and consider issues raised by the actors. This kind of awareness program has been very effective, particularly in places where people are illiterate and uninformed about women’s situation. On several occasions, WF has performed on stage as a part of fundraising activities for various causes. National and international artists have contributed to these shows.

Organic Farm

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The agricultural situation of Nepal is a dangerous and unstable one. It also affects around 90% of the population directly, as most Nepalis are farmers. Many of them, on the outskirts of cities and in rural villages, are using pesticides to grow their crops, often in three to four times the recommended quantity. Traditional knowledge and belief in natural processes is rapidly being lost as farmers strive to make enough money to feed their families.

WF has recognized that this situation is only considering short-term gains, which are themselves quickly decreasing in quantity and value. We consider agriculture to be crucial to our programs because it is such a large part of Nepali economy and culture. Therefore, to combat this problem, we have participated in numerous trainings and have made connections with farmers using permaculture and agroforestry techniques. These techniques emphasize diversity and working with natural systems, such as forests and wetlands. The synergetic systems that they create increase the efficiency, biodiversity and stability of a farm.

WF is applying these techniques on our own farm near the shelter in Boudha, Kathmandu. In 2000, we leased a plot for ten years and have successfully grown food for our shelter, a primary goal. Some of the farm has raised beds to grow vegetables, cooking herbs, and medicinal plants, while the rest of the land is intercropped in fields. In the process of maintaining this farm, women from the shelter have learned many farming techniques and practical skills that they can use to grow their own food and share with others in the future. We have also been able to produce some surplus food that we can then sell in Kathmandu. Because our food is primarily to feed our women and reduce our shelter running costs, we mainly grow food that is traditional to the Nepali diet, but we have experimented with crops that could be sold to western buyers at a higher price.

The farm currently provides 25% of the vegetables eaten at the shelter. Eventually, with more time and land, production of the farm will increase and the farm may become an income-producing project for WF and will serve as a demonstration of ecological techniques in WF workshops as well.

The agricultural situation of Nepal is a dangerous and unstable one. Around 90% of Nepal’s population depend on agriculture. The use of pesticides and fertiliser is widespread and the extent to which they are used poses a health risk to people and over time depletes the fertility of the soil. WF believes that raising public awareness about the benefits of organic farming practices is very important.

In 2003 WF received financial assistance to purchase land in Bhaktapur (outside of Kathmandu) for the establishment of an organic farm. This has been one of WF’s goals for a number of years and presents an exciting opportunity to spread awareness of organic farming while providing a source of income to support other WF programs.

The farm land is very different to the farm land which WF was leasing in Kathmandu, which was flat and had a reliable water supply. The Bhaktapur land is very hilly and much work is required to be undertaken to establish irrigation supply. When people from the villages were brought to Kathmandu for training in organic farming methods, they found it difficult to relate to the training as the land in Kathmandu was not at all like their land in the villages. As such WF believes that the land in Bhaktapur will enable more effective training as it closely resembles farming conditions in rural Nepal .

WF has a 5 year plan in place which involves planting 500 fruit trees, along with other vegetables, to generate enough food for the home. The planting of fruit trees begun late in 2003 and within a few months they had started to blossom. With financial support from a group of people in Italy , WF was able to purchase 500litre water tanks and a tractor. The construction of the farm house commenced in November 2003 and the planting of fruit trees will steadily continue. The bulk of the yield from the fruit trees will be sold at markets to provide a significant source of income for WF.

The Women’s Foundation’s fundamental aim is that all programs become financially self-sufficient and self-sustaining. As one of WF’s largest programs, the shelter represents considerable financial pressure on WF and much strategic planning is currently underway to minimise costs and introduce measures to provide an income for the shelter. The Organic Farm was developed out of a need to increase the sustainability of programs such as the shelter. The original organic farm in Kathmandu supplied around 30% of the vegetables consumed by the shelter. As the new land in Bhaktapur becomes more established, it is expected that this will steadily increase.

Women’s Shelter

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In 1995, WF established a shelter in Boudha, Kathmandu for women and children who are survivors of various kinds of violence. We do not discriminate on the basis of ethnic group, caste, or any other potential category, but decide which women and children need immediate attention on a case-by-case basis. Most women who come to the shelter for help are in physical danger, and are often in situations where they may die. Having helped over 550 women since it’s establishment, the shelter is currently providing for 21 women and 23 children (2002).

The women and children come from a variety of backgrounds. Some have been abused by their husbands and in-laws, while others have been forced into prostitution in India, Bangladesh, and Nepal. The children have either been orphaned, exploited as child laborers, suffered abuse or have been living in the streets due to acute poverty in the family.

The shelter removes these women and children from these circumstances and offers them safety. Once out of the potentially dangerous environment, the women can turn to other WF programs to get medical attention, counseling, and extensive legal aid to practically improve their situation. They have the opportunity to learn important skills, including reading, writing and handicraft skills when they are more mentally and physically stable. The shelter itself, as an independent project, is a place where women in extreme situations can stay, but its connection to all the other WF programs makes it an opportunity. Women are directly linked to WF network, which can help them heal and become independent.

The ultimate goal of the shelter is not to provide women with a permanent residence, but to give them encouragement, support, and a temporary home while they find their own place in society. In many cases, it also establishes life-long friendships.
Related Programs

It became evident to the Women’s Foundation that providing accommodation and support was not enough to empower these women. If the women are to rebuild their lives and gain financial independence, it was necessary for WF to develop a skill training program. The shelter has thus acted as the starting point for a number of programs. These programs are outlined below:

Handicraft Training

During their time at the shelter, women are given the opportunity to undertake skill training which will assist them in gaining financial and social independence. WF currently provides training programs in traditional Dhaka weaving, dry food production and tailoring. To find out more about these programs, click on each area.

Organic Farm

The organic farm was established for 2 reasons; in the first instance the organic farm is a cost-saver for the shelter, growing vegetables which are used to feed the shelter. In the second instance the organic farm is used as an education and awareness program, which is especially important given the extensive use of chemicals in Nepali farming practices. Click here to find out ore about the organic farm.

Skill Training Program

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The objective of the Skill Development Program is to train groups of women in a skill that they can use to support themselves and their children independently. Women are encouraged to use local resources and local materials for developing their skills. WF has recently opened a shop in Kathmandu to help women market their products.

WEAVING TRAINING

One of the most successful training programs the WF has established is the traditional Dhaka weaving. Currently 26 women are undergoing this intensive training. Dhaka training involves 6 months of skill development, during which time women learn how to weave increasingly complex patterns. They eventually move onto creating their own patterns, and learn how to ‘warp’ the thread onto the loom. The women are also given training in professional quality control and effective time management with regard to filling orders. WF’s Dhaka trainer is a woman who also received WF training, and is now a professional Dhaka weaver and teacher.

The WF also provides a small fund for the women to begin producing Dhaka once they leave the shelter. These funds are used by a woman to buy thread, and begin saving for a loom.

DRY FOOD

Dry food training programs teach women to make dalmod, potato and yam chips as well as bhuya mix. This program is held outside the shelter, and is instructed by a woman with extensive experience in the field of food production, small business management and marketing. WF has received financial support to purchase a packaging machine which is needed to ensure that the dry food is packaged in a hygienic and professional way. Dry food production is an easy skill to learn, requires minimal equipment and can easily be sold at local markets.

SEWING TRAINING

WF runs regular sewing training sessions at the training center. Most women who have completed the weaving program will choose to undertake the sewing program as the two skills are complimentary. Sewing programs are held in the districts of Nepal, coordinated through WF’s district members to offer village women the opportunity to learn to make ready-made clothes for themselves or for sale. These sewing programs are very popular. Sewing programs are organised on a needs-basis.

SMALL BUSINESS TRAINING

WF regularly runs small business training for women who are not able to take part in the long-term skill development programs. The WF accountant conducts a proportion of the classes and external professionals teach others. These classes aim to help women gain skills, which will enable them to work towards financial independence. Skills covered include:

n Creating a budget

n Monitoring production costs

n Monitoring profit and losses

n Marketing

Political Lobbying

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WF is a strong advocate for human and women’s rights protection and lobbies the government to consider gender issues in Nepali society. WF is an advocate in several cases of legal inequality, working to amend 118 Nepali laws/rules and clauses that directly discriminate against women and 33 others that are direct violations of human rights. Other human rights concerns that the Foundation supports are: women’s rights to property and to abortion, the citizenship rights of children who are not recognized as offspring by their fathers in cases of rape and polygamy, and the rights of women who are raped before registering for citizenship.

WF efforts raise awareness about these legal inequalities and work for legislation that opposes these heavily biased documents. In 2003, WF was successful in winning 23 of 25 cases in the courts—this was a sign of positive change.

POLITICAL LOBBYING
WF is a strong advocate for human and women’s rights protection and lobbies the government to consider gender issues in Nepali society. WF is an advocate in several cases of legal inequality, working to amend 173 Nepali laws/rules and clauses that directly discriminate against women and 33 others that are direct violations of human rights. Other human rights concerns that the Foundation supports are: women’s rights to property and to abortion, the citizenship rights of children who are not recognized as offspring by their fathers in cases of rape and polygamy, and the rights of women who are raped before registering for citizenship.
WF efforts raise awareness about these legal inequalities and work for legislation that opposes these heavily biased documents. In 2003, WF was successful in winning 23 of 25 cases in the courts. This was a sign of positive change.

ELECTION OBSERVATION

WF and eight other organizations founded the National Election Observation Campaign Committee (NEOCC), to monitor pre-election pressure on women (such as bribes, threats, or physical force). When elections are announced, the group comes together to observe polling stations and to monitor women’s participation in elections. The NEOCC submits a report to the Election Council Office and Ministries of Home Affairs, Labor, Law, and Women and Social Welfare.

OBSERVATION OF ABUSE OF AUTHORITY BY STATE & SOCIETY

WF is actively involved in identifying victims of state violence. The Foundation provides support by visiting victims in jail and police custody, documenting cases of rape and brutality, using the media to bring violations to public attention, and increasing pressure on the government to stop these occurrences and to punish such offenders. WF believes that a responsible society does not leave room for the abuse of human rights, and urges people to become active against all forms of violence.

What is Dhaka?

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Dhaka is an exquisite cotton fabric hand woven in numerous colours with an infinite and unlimited number of patterns. The duration of weaving and price is dependent on the complexity of the pattern. The more complex the pattern, higher the price; the simpler the pattern, the lower the cost.

The unique art and craft of dhaka has its roots in an eastern Nepali village ‘Terathum’. Started by ‘Rai’ and ‘Limbu’ women, dhaka is a truly indigenous traditional form of artistic expression reflecting Nepali mastery of craftsmanship.

Dhaka has a history of more than one thousand years and has numerous turbulent experiences. With the introduction and development of power-looms, dhaka suffered a major setback and nearly lost out to cheaper fabrics. But the efforts by villagers to preserve the art brought the dhaka back to life.

Part of the skill training & income generating activities program involves training underprivileged women to weave traditional textile ‘dhaka’ which is famous both locally and internationally. WF also takes responsibility for marketing ‘dhaka’ products on behalf of the weavers within Nepal and abroad.

Laxmi

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Laxmi has been at the shelter since she was 1 year old. Her mother was very sick and could not care for her. Laxmi’s health was very poor, when the Secretary General of the Women’s Foundation brought her to the shelter. She was the first child to live at the shelter and is a very popular member of the family. She is top of her class at school and every night she is asleep by 8 o’clock. She wakes up every morning at 4 o’clock and immediately goes to ask Renu Sharma (Secretary General) to tell her a story.

In April 2002 Laxmi went to hospital for a general check-up. The love and care she receives at the shelter was evident when the doctor asked her what her name was and she responded by saying: “I have three names; ‘Laxmi’, ‘Bunch of Love’ and ‘Peace of Heart’.”

Rajanna

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Rajanna attends the local community school with her older sister Sarada. She is currently in the Upper Kindergarten class. Like her sister, she is also top of her class and is often the first student on to the stage at school to answer the morning quiz question. She is enthusiastic about all of her subjects at school, has a lot of friends and enjoys her time in the playground. Her ambition in life is to become a pilot, which is probably a result of the proximity to airport to the shelter, where airplanes are regularly heard flying overhead. Rajanna is a little girl with a big appetite and she will proudly tell how she won the biscuit eating competition at school.

Rajanna is very curious about new things and likes to try new experiences. One day she wanted to see if she could pass an eraser through her nose and out of her mouth. She never told anyone about this and she did it outside on the balcony. She pushed it up and up and then that night it started to hurt her and she could not get it out. She thought that it would melt but it didn’t. Still she did not tell anyone.

Around midnight the pain was so bad that she was crying so much that her friends asked her what happened to her. When she told them what happened they called a nurse who works at Women’s Foundation clinic and she told the nurse what she had done. By this time her nose had become very swollen and it took a long time for the nurse to get the eraser out of her nose.

The next day we asked her why she had done this and she said that she was interested to see if she could pass the eraser from her nose to her mouth. After feeling such pain, we don’t think she will ever try this trick again!

Along with the other girls at the shelter, Rajanna is most happy when she is dancing to traditional Nepali music. She shows such enjoyment and enthusiasm for her dancing and eagerly took part in dancing lessons that the Women’s Foundation organised in 2003. One day Renu Sharma, the Secretary General of the WF, asked Rajanna what made her happy, and she replied ” I am happy because you love me.”

Stories of Women

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The Constitution of Nepal is based on the principles of equality. In practice however this is not the case and a recent study undertaken by NGO’s with the co-operation of the Ministry of Women “found that 118 clauses/sections/rules in their entirety have discriminatory legal provisions.”

-Source: Discriminatory Laws in Nepal and their Impact on Women (Aug. 2000)

Following is an example of some Nepali laws that discriminate against Women (please select each area to open the corresponding page):

Citizenship

In Nepal citizenship is not automatic at birth. Women do not have the right to transfer their citizenship to their children, and thus if a child is born to a foreign father, he/she cannot be granted Nepali citizenship. Without citizenship, a person cannot gain employment, cannot access medical and cannot own property. A child who is born to rape will face a lengthy and complicated task in gaining citizenship, as their mother is not able to transfer her citizenship to them.

The Women’s Foundation assists a number of women with their citizenship issues. The Women’s Foundation provides legal assistance through their network of lawyers, without which it is very difficult for women to get their cases heard in court.

This is the story of a woman at the shelter who, with WF assistance, was able to take her citizenship case to court ……….

Lila is living at the shelter and WF is currently involved in assisting her with her citizenship case. Lila was abandoned by her husband and does not have citizenship. As she is married, she must have the authorization of her husband if she is to be granted citizenship. After having abandoned her, her husband refuses to acknowledge her and without citizenship she will be unable to find any decent employment. In order to get citizenship, she has to prove that her circumstances should allow for this and without free legal assistance, she would not have been able to do anything about her citizenship problems.

Rape

According to the existing Nepali law on rape, if a married woman is raped, her husband automatically becomes her ex-husband. Thus she loses any marital rights, such as access to property. In most instances the rape victim will suffer rejection from her family and community.

WF has assisted many women and children who are victims of rape and have been rejected by their families and communities.

This is the story of a young woman who was raped and found shelter with WF…….

Sima comes from a small village in Eastern Nepal. When she was 16 years old she was sexually abused by her schoolteacher in the village. Her family and fellow villagers did not support her and she was constantly harassed. She suffered emotionally as a result. In 2000 Sima managed to escape from the village and made her way to the Women’s Foundation office in Jhapa district. She begged for assistance and was brought to Kathmandu where she lives at the shelter. Sima is currently completing Grade 10.

Domestic violence

We do not have law for domestic violence. Beating of women by their husband is very common. Our one research report r in western part of Nepal show that 73% women were victim of domestic violence. Here is one story of women.

Victim of Domestic violence :

Nirmila Sitoula –Nirmila is marriage with 2 children. Her parents arranged her marriage when she was 15 years old. (She shared while crying) – My husband is very valiant. He yell me, beat me with out reason. He do not help me in household work, He force me to work even I am very tired. (She explain one accident while crying and showing her scars) I was bringing water from well. He was sitting in the Khat (wooden bed) he was smoking cigarette but the fire on the cigarette went out. In a big pot I boiled water with husk for cows in front of our house, water was boiling. He asked me to bring fire as quickly as he could snap or he would hurt me and then he snapped but it was not possible to reach there in that time. He came and poured on me that boiling water. I cried very loudly and fainted. When I was a wake, I was in hospital. I know my neighbor bring me to hospital and call the WF members. The WF helps me in hospital and paid my hospital bills. They bring my husband at police custody for one month. Now I learn form WF how to produce good vegetables and sell in the market. So I am running my family independent. Our house is happy and safe house for us now a days. My husband is not any longer with me

Property Inheritance

According to Nepali law women and men, at birth, have equal entitlement to inheriting their parent’s property. However if a woman marries, she gives up her inheritance right to her parents property and is entitled to half her husband’s property. This is clearly impractical in a country where social norms dictate that women are expected to marry.

Case studies – what previous volunteers have contributed

Featured

a few examples of our international volunteers…

BARBARA – (60yrs, from USA) worked with us for 1 month teaching sewing to 5 students. She had worked many years in the sewing industry, and passed on her skills in accurately measuring and cutting fabric, sewing to various patterns – all to a very high standard! She introduced patterns of bags, belts, and potholders to the women. The women are now able to sell these products (made from material hand loomed in the shelter) in the WF shop.

SUSIE – (43 yrs, from Australia) has worked with WF for 2 years now. She was involved in the opening of our retail outlet for our weaving products, while also designing cloth and patterns for the weavers. She also assists with program writing, grant proposals and sources sponsors for our shelter.

CYNTHIA – (48yrs, from USA) has worked with the WF for the past 4 years. She has been involved in a great many projects, right from inception of great ideas (e.g. making the dhaka cloth into clothing to sell in the USA) to completion (taking clothing back to the USA to sell and promote the work of the WF). She has also been instrumental in working with the WF in grant writing, and thinking of the ‘big picture’ with regard to current and future proposals.

SARAH – (30 yrs, from UK) conducted a workshop on dental hygiene for the women and children at the shelter. As a dentist on holiday, sarah put together an interactive, enjoyable day full of information.

MEREDITH & KATE – (both 24 yrs, from USA) worked with the WF for 9 months. Both worked in the office and the organic farm. They were instrumental in the opening of the shop in Kathmandu, which sells the products the WF makes. They also established many programs on the office computer, and made many contacts for the WF internationally. Recently, they worked together in the US to arrange a successful 2-month speaking tour for 2 members of the WF.

SASKIA – (22 yrs, from the Netherlands) worked for 5 months, during which time she developed our web site. She also assisted with editing many of the documents we present to various partner groups and funding agencies.

MIRA – (34 yrs, from UK) worked with us for 3 months, as an English teacher at the office and the shelter. She developed English/Nepali worksheets, and conducted classes for women and children of many different standards. She also arranged for different cultural events to be held at the shelter (such as singing, dancing, cooking from different cultures). Back home in London, she is working on developing a small publication (using all the photos she took whilst here) with the aim of gaining financial sponsors for the women in the shelter.