Mahila Musing: Nepal, Part 3

Through partnerships with on-the-ground organizations and a heap of passion for helping women around the world, Mahila Partnership takes a unique approach to sustainable development and disaster recovery in the communities where we work. Mahila’s President, Angela Devlen offers a deeper look at Mahila’s past projects in Nepal, how the team responded in the wake of the earthquake, and what lies ahead for our grassroots, women-led initiatives. This brief video [Part 3 of a 3-part series] provides an inside view of what it’s like on the ground, along with milestones, challenges and lessons learned in the months since the earthquake.

 

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.

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.

 

Visit Mahila Partnership online to learn more at www.mahilapartnership.org

 

Comment Below (please leave your opinions below in the comments section):

“Grassroots organizations are often not equipped to provide large studies on the results of their work. How would you like to see the results of their work demonstrated?”

 

Comments 4

  1. Understanding a country’s past is crucial in helping them build a better future. So glad to hear that you guys work hand in hand with locals and give the communities the opportunity to help shape their journey to recovery.

  2. “Grassroots organizations are often not equipped to provide large studies on the results of their work. How would you like to see the results of their work demonstrated?”

    It’s tough, I can imagine, to display data when you aren’t doing massive public-health style studies. But I don’t think that’s what people/donors want. I know that I personally like reading stories, seeing media from the field, and seeing the basic data that the organization is using to guide their efforts. Scientific studies aren’t user-friendly anyway; they’re written in jargon and serious scientific language that really doesn’t connect with the modern audience.

    Honestly, I’d like to see more stories like this, more overarching goals that are supported by easy-to-understand statistics, such as “How many women don’t have access to sanitary pads?” or “How many people have been displaced by the earthquake? How many still are?” Data that is RELATABLE brings us all together as one human race, and that’s what I care about most.

  3. “Grassroots organizations are often not equipped to provide large studies on the results of their work. How would you like to see the results of their work demonstrated?”

    Honestly, I want to see more stories like this. When an organization shares their goals, and the data that drives their work to achieve those goals, it just makes sense. Large scientific studies aren’t written for the normal person, they use jargon and scientific language that really isn’t accessible or entertaining. I’d much rather see photos or videos from the field, read personal stories from the people who are actually being helped, and learn more about the purpose that drives the organization. Science is measuring the present, nonprofits are making changes for a better future.

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