Nepali women work together for empowering their sisters in rural areas

Nepali women work together for empowering their sisters in rural areas

7. 3. 2018

This International Women’s Day, meet women from across Nepal who work for People in Need. Our Protection team works to empower rural women to advocate for their rights and ensure their own health and safety.



I started working in the protection sector after the earthquake in 2015. We visited communities and found that many women and girls were not familiar about their rights and about forms of violence. “A man has right to do whatever he wants, being a women we should be humble and tolerant”, said one elderly woman to her granddaughter. Being a young woman myself I felt this was an injustice not just to her, but to that elderly woman and for every woman. That one saying changed my perception toward my work. 


While working in a remote village in Gorkha, I learned that child marriage, polygamy, sexual harassment, and issues affecting unmarried mothers were normal in that area. Women were not aware about their rights. Deep inside I felt that I have to make these women aware of their rights. They are the one who really motivated me about my protection work. If I was not a woman, I would not have gotten the chance to work so closely with them. If I were a man, then talking about sexual and gender based violence and reproductive health would not be so easy. Being a woman I was able to contribute to the empowerment of other women as well as my own empowerment.


I grew up among the boys where I was made to believe that girls are the weaker gender. I did not want to be seen as weak. So: I walked like a boy, I played like the boys, I spoke and behaved like the boys. As a “tomboy,” I wasn’t bullied, but my other friends were. I blamed the girls for not standing up or fighting back when any person treated them badly. Around the same time, my English teacher told us a story of an eagle that grew up in a farm with chickens and believed it was a chicken and never dared to fly. Many women are like that eagle, believing they are chickens because of the society they live in. I started to encourage girls and women to stand up and realize that they don’t deserve the ill treatment of others. In no time it became a way of life to spread positivity among the women around me. I picture myself heading towards a more just society for both men and women.


One day I received a call in PIN’s compliance number where a community member called to thank PIN and me for what we had done for the community. The thank you call made me think about my hard work and dedication. This is one of the most overwhelming moments of my work life, which motivates me and helps me keep going. Once at a meeting during an emergency response, a man from another organization said, “Doesn’t your team have any male members? His statement made me angry at that time, but later I realized that my team was the only team with female staffs working hard on the ground during an emergency. This very incident makes me feel empowered to be a woman.


As a woman, I was always told not to stay outside the house after 5 in the evening. People in Need called to hire me and asked if I can work in the remotest areas of Gorkha district. I told my father about it, and he asked me whether I was sure if I can do it or not. “I will drop you there,” he said. At that moment I felt, I am going to do this on my own; I will explore how life is out of my house. The interactions with the women and girls in my working place further inspired me to do my best in my job. My 28 months journey with PIN has strengthened my bonding with myself. I strongly believe that my contribution towards the remote communities is helping women and girls like me to reach to the facilities and opportunities for their better future. 


Born in a small village of Pokhara, I am the only daughter of my family. I received all the love and attention from my parents, while many girls are ignored in the villages. I was volunteering, which provided a platform for young people like me to be motivated and empowered to fight against social injustice and poverty. My experiences broadened my knowledge and boosted my confidence level regarding issues of gender, patriarchy, feminism, and human rights. A few years ago, I witnessed the eviction of a slum community where mostly women and children were affected. Moreover the pregnant women suffered and some of them had miscarriages. I felt helpless, as I wasn’t in a position to talk to them. Since then, I decided to work for women and fight for their rights and protection. 


Over time, I have realized how a small effort could make a big difference. Through my work, I have focused on the power of knowledge sharing and rigorously advocating for women’s rights. Women of rural Nepal are unaware of the rights and freedom that they are entitled to. Through PIN, I ran a training about sexual and reproductive health and rights. Afterwards, a lady approached me and said. ‘Before this training, these issues were beyond our imagination. Your training made me realize that it should be known to every community and there is nothing to be ashamed of.’ Now, she has been actively speaking up for reproductive health and rights in her community. This is proof that women can agents for change. 


When I was small, I often found my mother in the corner, staying isolated. My sisters and I used to think she was enjoying the me-time but I never understood the meaning of her isolation, her watery eyes, her unheard voice and underestimated view by the community. I grew up in the same lines of gender discrimination but my mother gave me wings to fly and navigate a space for growth. My mother raised her four daughters with love and care and made us capable to fight for our rights. Now, I feel so proud to be a daughter of so many mothers where I go and where I work. I believe a woman can transform adversity into opportunity with her power.


After a landslide emergency, we provided psychosocial support to the community and the school. We also formed women’s support groups where the women had an opportunity to share their fears, anxieties, and pain over the loss of friends and family. The school felt that psychosocial activities contributed to psychosocial wellbeing of the children so much they decided to mainstream psychosocial activities in the regular extracurricular activities. They conducted cultural events, folk dances and dramas with messages on child protection, trafficking and consequences of child marriage. They received support from each other and are also referred to professional counseling sessions. They started giving importance to mental health and spreading awareness that sharing is not a weakness, but a strength to fight adverse circumstances. 


Since childhood, I was treated equally to my brother. But all the girls in Nepal are not as lucky as I am. While I was studying, we learned about different issues women and girls have been going through like cases of rape, domestic violence, harassment, abuse, genital mutilation, stigma about menstruation, and child marriage. After graduation, I got the chance to be involved in different research where I found poor conditions of women and girls in rural Nepal. It kind of opened my mind and inspired me to work for them. I started travelling and working in different places and got the chance to meet girls and women who had gone through violence but had no idea where to go and whom to seek. They couldn’t even raise their voice against the violence. Working as a protection officer during an emergency was a time to be a voice for voiceless women and girls and create a safe and secure place for them.


My mom is a single mother who struggled all her life to give good food, good health and good education to her children. I have seen my mother going through lots of hard times. One of the reasons behind her struggle and hardships was illiteracy and a lack of access to skills. Growing up, I had a strong passion and keen interest to work for women like my mother who have to struggle a lot in life. My real life situation has been the main source of inspiration and motivation for me.


I conduct trainings for people who were displaced by the 2015 earthquake. During the training, I share the existing laws and policies of Nepal specifically related to women’s and children’s rights. The participants are part of Safety Committees promoting safety in their camps. I encourage people to speak up and share their views and opinions with the members of the Safety Committee, who do projects to ensure security at their sites. Some Safety Committees have built bathing stations, toilets with proper lock systems, and water reservoir nearby their location so that they can avoid possible violence and harassment. Now, women and children do not have to bathe in the open or walk long distances to fetch water. These issues are not usually seen as protection issues by society, but now the Safety Committee shows that they are.

Author: Shrestha Sajana, PIN Nepal Communication Officer