Feb 14, 2020

Generating Income and Seeking Justice in Nepal

Making tiger bags in Bardiya
Making tiger bags in Bardiya

This update is being sent to friends who have kindly donated to our appeals on behalf of family members of the disappeared in Nepal since 2015.

To recap:

Nepalis are still struggling to recover from the wounds of a long conflict (1996-2006). The worst-affected by far are the relatives of more than 2,500 Nepalis who were seized and have never reappeared. Working through the Network of Family-members of the Disappeared (NEFAD) we have developed a close relationship with a cooperative of around 30 family members in the western district of Bardiya, where more disappearances occurred than in any other district in Nepal.

So far, with your help, we have raised $15,142.66 for the Bardiya cooperative.

We began in 2016 by working through Peace Fellows to help the women commemorate their lost loved ones through embroidery, as we have done with many other partners in the Global South. By the end of 2018, they had produced over 40 embroidered squares.

As we wrote in previous reports, we asked Bobbi, an expert quilter and member of our board of directors, to visit Nepal in April 2019 and help the cooperative members assemble two quilts. The quilts and artists are profiled on our website. You might also like this video of Bobbi’s reaction to working with these brave women.

We then turned to using the quilts to advocate for justice. Sarita, the head of the cooperative, kept one of the quilts in Nepal. Iain showed the second quilt to the United Nations Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances in Geneva (photo). This is in line with NEFAD's strategy of persuading the UN human rights bodies to engage more actively in Nepal. We plan to deploy two experienced Peace Fellows in Nepal this coming summer to produce studies on the disappeared and reparations, which will then be submitted to the UN.

Our second approach is to move from story-telling to income-generation. During her trip to Nepal, Bobbi helped Sarita and her team to design new Tiger bags. We purchased two sewing machines and material. Kushma rented an office. Sima agreed to act as the cooperative treasurer. Kancham – one of the best artists in the cooperative (photo) – began making new designs.

As of now, the Nepali bag-makers have produced 35 bags and hope to reach 50 by the time our Peace Fellows arrive in the summer to collect the bags and assess progress. Meanwhile, our Washington team is exploring the possibility of auctioning the bags online, or selling them through retail. One way or another, the fight for transitional justice will continue –  in Nepal and here in the US.

In gratitude

The AP team

Kancham is the best artist in the cooperative
Kancham is the best artist in the cooperative
Binita's block commemorates her lost husband
Binita's block commemorates her lost husband
Bobbi and Sarita with the first tiger bag
Bobbi and Sarita with the first tiger bag
The Bardiya memorial quilt at the United Nations
The Bardiya memorial quilt at the United Nations
Tiger tiger! New bags from the Bardiya cooperative
Tiger tiger! New bags from the Bardiya cooperative
Oct 14, 2019

A report card on our 2019 fellowships

2019 Fellows at training in Washington
2019 Fellows at training in Washington

The Advocacy Project launched this appeal in early 2016 to help fund our fellowship program. In the three years since it has yielded $20,609 from 141 donations. A big thanks to you all!

This report will review lessons learned from this summer, when we deployed five Fellows to Nepal, Vietnam, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Uganda.

As you may know from previous reports, our mission is to help survivors of abuse or injustice in the Global South to launch innovative startups for social change. We do this by recruiting a graduate student to spend ten weeks with our partners and offer the kind of support that students do really well - crowdfunding, social media, and story-telling. After ten weeks of friendship and collaboration, we hope that the host organization will be stronger and better placed to take their startups to the next level.

Here’s what our Fellows achieved this summer:

Uganda: Peace Fellow Spencer helped the Gulu Disabled Persons Union (GDPU) to install accessible toilets and hand-washing at the Abaka School, where the toilets had been so bad that the government planned to close the school. In the last four years GDPU has upgraded toilets at four schools in Gulu, with over 2,000 students. The money has come largely through GlobalGiving.

After this latest success, it is time to think of scaling the program. Our best hope lies in a formal partnership with the Gulu district government. We are also looking for Rotary clubs in the US that might work with the Gulu Rotary Club to support more GDPU toilet projects.

Zimbabwe: Peace Fellow McLane (Fletcher School) helped the Women Advocacy Project to confront child marriage by recruiting girl “ambassadors” to help girls who are threatened by marriage. McLane produced excellent blogs and photos; raised over $2,000; developed a plan to train girls in soap-making; and coordinated the making of 12 embroidered squares which depict child marriage.

The fruits of McLane’s excellent work are now being seen. The squares are being assembled into an advocacy quilt which will be exhibited at a forthcoming UN summit on women’s health in Nairobi (ICPD25). Constance, from WAP, will attend the conference and use her quilt to explain child marriage to an international audience. WAP has also launched soap training for 60 girls in Harare with the money raised by McLane.

Kenya: Ben (Fletcher School at Tuft) was the latest of several very talented Fellows to work at the Children Peace Initiative Kenya (CPIK). His main task was to help CPIK launch an ambitious new program of conflict resolution between the Turkana and Samburu tribes in northwest Kenya. Like his class-mate McLane from the Fetcher School, Ben also helped local artists to produce embrodered squares for a quilt that will be shown at the ICPD conference in Nairobi.

Since Ben's departure the northwest has been the scene of violent clashes that illustrate both the challenge and the importance of CPIK’s work.

Vietnam: We asked Peace Fellow Mia to visit families that participate in our program for Agent Orange victims – a heart-breaking assignment. We have raised over $15,000 for eleven families since 2015 and Mia confirmed that our grants (raised through GlobalGiving) have been well used. Mia also produced a wealth of valuable household data which will help her host, the Association for the Empowerment of Persons with Disability (AEPD), to develop a new facility to reach more families.

Nepal: Boroka worked at the Centre for Agro-Ecology and Development (CAED) which campaigns against menstrual banishment (chhaupadi). The government passed a law against chhaupadi in 2018, but the law will be difficult to enforce. We had hoped that CAED would take advantage of Boroka's presence to explore innovative local approaches, but CAED was not interested. Sadly, Boroka’s considerable talents were largely underutilized.

All of these fellowships have yielded valuable lessons. As we explained in a recent report to GlobalGiving, by raising $2,000 for WAP McLane was able to jumpstart soap training whch we hope will provide girls with an economic incentive to resist early marriage. By helping CPIK to produce professional reports for its German donor, Ben ensured that CPIK will likely attract further funding at a time when its work is more vital than ever.

Have Fellows really strengthened our partners? Absolutely, to judge from Uganda where Patrick (a survivor of polio) saw the Abaka project through to a successful conclusion after Spencer, his Peace Fellow, left prematurely. After working with five Fellows since 2015, Patrick is now a recognized expert on disability, WASH and education.

Even the disappointments must be seen in a larger context. We will invest heavily in Nepal again next year and draw on Boroka’s insights into chhaupadi, but with a different partner.

While there is plenty to be proud of, we face some headwinds. For example, we face growing competition from larger, better-endowed university fellowship programs. We argue that our model does a better job of triggering social change, promoting diversity and providing students with unique first-hand experience on the front lines. But it does mean that we depend heavily on generous indviduals like yourself.

We will be hoping for renewed support on Giving Tuesday (November 27).

In gratitude

Iain and the AP team.

Ben competes with the kids in northern Kenya
Ben competes with the kids in northern Kenya
Boroka defends menstruation in Nepal
Boroka defends menstruation in Nepal
Mia with Mr Phuc in Vietnam
Mia with Mr Phuc in Vietnam
McLane with the girl ambassadors in Zimbabwe
McLane with the girl ambassadors in Zimbabwe
Spencer sizes up the challenge at Abaka in Uganda
Spencer sizes up the challenge at Abaka in Uganda
Oct 11, 2019

Soap Targets Child Marriage in Zimbabwe

WAP girls learn to make Clean Girl soap in Harare
WAP girls learn to make Clean Girl soap in Harare

This report is being sent to everyone who has supported the work of our partner in Zimbabwe, the Women Advocacy Project (WAP). So far, 36 donors have given $4,131. Thank you!

As we have pointed out in our previous report, one third of all girls in Zimbabwe marry under the age of 18, in violation of the law and at great risk to their health. WAP’s director, Constance, is determined to put an end to this, and she has selected several dynamic young women to serve as “girl ambassadors” against child marriage. Each ambassador is responsible for managing a club where girls learn about reproductive health and the risks of early marriage. Their efforts seem to be paying off: not one of the 150 participants has married since the trainings began last year.

Poverty is one of the driving forces behind early marriage, and early in September WAP launched a soap training program for 30 girls in the community of Chitungwiza. The goal was to provide their families with an economic incentive to resist the pressure to marry. Using your donations and a grant from Germany, WAP hired a professional trainer, Mr Paul, and purchased protective clothing, equipment, and material. The girls provided a snappy brand name for their soap – “Clean Girl.” Two ambassadors – Evelyn from Chitungwiza and Trish from Epworth – coordinated the training.

Over the past month, Mr Paul has given weekly trainings at the house of a WAP friend, as shown in the photo. Some of the girls, who have dropped out of school, have told WAP that they will use anything they may earn to enroll again.

Clean Girl is household soap and not of a particularly high quality. But these are early days and the program is off to a quick start. The trainees produced 180 liters during the first month. Each girl was asked to find 10 recycled bottles (most of which were provided by Pepsi) and this saved some money. In the end, each half-kilo bottle of soap sold for about $1.50.

This will not be enough to cover the production costs and produce a decent income after the donations run out, but that lies in the future. WAP’s priority at present is to lay a strong foundation by improving the quality of soap and putting an efficient and transparent process in place. The soap is sold by five confident girls who take the bottles to local “Tuck Shops” and make their sales pitch. Like any good businesswomen, they keep invoices and hand the money over to WAP for safe-keeping. (Banks charge $20 a month, which is beyond WAP’s means for the time being.) AP will visit in November and offer suggestions.

Meanwhile, on a separate but related note, we have been asked by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) to exhibit advocacy quilts at a major international conference in Nairobi next month. The Conference (ICPD25) will mark the 25-year anniversary of the ground-breaking 1994 Cairo meeting on population and development.

Early marriage will be on the agenda, and we have commissioned a quilt on child marriage from the girls of WAP. Their embroidered squares are powerful, as you can see from the photos. One, by Kundai, shows an orphan girl being forced by her guardian to marry an old man to pay off the cost of her upbringing. The other squares are equally graphic. Constance will attend the conference and use the quilt to publicize WAP's work before an international audience.

Much of this success is due to the effforts of our two Peace Fellows who have worked at WAP - Alex (2018) and McLane (2019). This past summer McLane put up with endless power cuts and breakdowns to raise over $1,500, write proposals and coordinate the making of the embroidered squares. Like Alex she showed that graduate students can be extraordinarily effective at launching innovative startups for social change.

We’ll have more news from the Nairobi conference and the soap-making in Harare in our next report!

In gratitude

Iain and the AP team.

Clean Girl labels are attached to soap bottles
Clean Girl labels are attached to soap bottles
Constance from WAP with the finished product!
Constance from WAP with the finished product!
Kundai uses embroidery to denounce child marriage
Kundai uses embroidery to denounce child marriage
Domestic violence, depicted by Lynn
Domestic violence, depicted by Lynn
Mr Paul trains WAP girls to make soap
Mr Paul trains WAP girls to make soap
 
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