In the middle of March, CECI organized Women’s Trek for Peace and Development with the coordination of activities of local stakeholders; partner NGOs, Adventures Sister Company and the 3 Sisters Adventures Company in three different rural parts of Nepal. The main theme of the trek held in the Myagdi region was to observe how local women from different caste groups are taking on leadership roles in their community through the organizing Mother’s Groups.
Myagdi, located in the central development region of Nepal has been directly affected by the 10 years long conflict period. The conflict especially affected poor families, mostly those belonging to the lower middle class and working class in the remote areas of Nepal. Most of the youths from this district had been working in the British Army, Indian Army and many Middle Eastern countries to earn money. Due to that, women have to bear all the everyday work of taking care of their children and household activities. During the community visits, the local women shared their leadership experiences, challenges they face in beginning phase of their group formation, the cooperative activities they are currently leading, and success stories of their groups, with the Canadian women trekkers.
Women from this region have traditional skills like making shawl and mattress made by sheep wool, traditional umbrellas, wallet and bamboo baskets. Some women had also taken training to make juice from oranges, rhododendron flowers, lemon, etc. However, due to the lack of transportation facilities and marketing strategies, they use these products only for household purposes.
Most of villages in the Myagdi region have created mother’s group. Every of these groups collect money from each member on a monthly basis. They also collect money during festivals by showing different cultural programmes. The economies are used to provide loans to members and for development works in the villages. They raise funds by showing cultural activities in different festivals and occasions.
The ten day long trek became a good platform to the local villagers to demonstrate that women can have many roles in society besides their traditional feminine role in the household activities. The trek was also very effective to create awareness among grass roots women about the constitutive assembly election (held April 10th in Nepal). This interaction will become a platform for us to empower women’s voice in developmental work, said Yam Maya Pun, young teacher at the primary school. Women whether rich or poor, high caste or low caste, are now able to raise their voice and lobby against discrimination against women added, Binu Thapa, secretary of the Himalayan Mothers in Chimkhola. She also shared her bitter experiences of how local women in the period of the “State of Emergency” during the conflict were deprived from going to the forests to collect grass and woods for their household needs.
Historic Poll for a New Nepal
Though the general unsatisfaction of the political campaign work done by different political parties, Nepali people cast their votes for a New Nepal on April 10th. At this time, Nepal astounded the world by successfully holding the Constituent Assembly poll with the strong participation by the people, as well as with a low incidence of violence. Precisely, two years after the April Uprising that forced the king to return power to the people, the citizens of Nepal voted at these historic elections. The armed rebels, who fought against the establishment for a decade, have turned their minds from bullet to ballets.
Like all the women from different regions of Nepal, women of the Myagdi region were also very optimistic that their voice will be heard, and women’s issues will be raised after the election. Their hopes are unanimous; they want an inclusive so-called “New Nepal” that will be encompassing the voices of the women and other marginalized people.
By Binita Dahal
Nepali journalism student, Kathmandu
Photos: Myriam Fehmiu