During my visit in Dolakha I found the Aaltareng women’s group meeting up on the hillside. Despite the busy planting season, every single member of the group had showed up for the monthly meeting. One woman even attended with a very young set of twins! In addition to the Aaltareng group members, some women from a nearby women’s group showed up to observe and learn new practices. It was wonderful to see that the women are so engaged and committed to their groups, and the network they are building seems very strong.
At the start of the meeting, the treasurer collected the monthly savings from each member. At this particular meeting, the women decided to increase their monthly savings from 50 rupees to 60 rupees so that their overall savings would increase. After loan interest was also collected, the group had several thousand rupees in hand, and they voted on how they should distribute the money as new loans. Everything was done democratically and transparently, and all of the money transactions were recorded by the secretary. After the money was dealt with, the women began talking about school and the importance of staying involved in children’s educations. The 'community mobilizer' suggested that the mothers attend parents’ meetings and monitor their children’s progress. ETC promotes a well-rounded strategy to community improvement by supporting women and schools. While roaming the village I saw several schools that ETC has supported as well.
The women’s empowerment program that Educate the Children runs is six years long, and during the fifth year the group registers as a cooperative with the government. ETC prepares the groups so that they can be sustainable when ETC support runs out. While the Aaltareng group was having their monthly meeting, two other groups were attending an ETC sponsored training about becoming a cooperative. The room was packed with women and their small children, and everyone was engaged with the passionate instructor. Neela, a women's empowerment officer, explained the success of their other trainings, such as health trainings, sanitation, and kitchen garden care.
After a busy day of meetings and trainings, I visited a small commercial farm owned by a member of the local women’s group. The farm was started with a loan from the group as an income generation project. The farm grows off-season vegetables that bring in several thousand rupees each year. The women was so proud as she gave me a tour of the farm. ETC supports other income generation projects like small poultry farming and goat raising. The skills, extra income, and empowerment that these women receive by being part of a women’s group seems undeniable, and it was inspiring to meet so many women benefiting from ETC’s support!
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