Help Wives of the Missing in Nepal Speak Out

A microproject by The Advocacy Project Vetted since 2015 Top Ranked Effective Nonprofit
Help Wives of the Missing in Nepal Speak Out
Help Wives of the Missing in Nepal Speak Out
Help Wives of the Missing in Nepal Speak Out
Help Wives of the Missing in Nepal Speak Out
Help Wives of the Missing in Nepal Speak Out
Help Wives of the Missing in Nepal Speak Out
Help Wives of the Missing in Nepal Speak Out
Help Wives of the Missing in Nepal Speak Out
Help Wives of the Missing in Nepal Speak Out
Help Wives of the Missing in Nepal Speak Out
Help Wives of the Missing in Nepal Speak Out
Help Wives of the Missing in Nepal Speak Out
Help Wives of the Missing in Nepal Speak Out
Help Wives of the Missing in Nepal Speak Out
Help Wives of the Missing in Nepal Speak Out
Help Wives of the Missing in Nepal Speak Out
Help Wives of the Missing in Nepal Speak Out
Help Wives of the Missing in Nepal Speak Out
Help Wives of the Missing in Nepal Speak Out
Kancham, proud of her Tiger bag!
Kancham, proud of her Tiger bag!

This report is offered to friends of The Advocacy Project who very kindly donated to a 2016 appeal that we launched on GlobalGiving on behalf of 35 remarkable women in western Nepal. This is one of five appeals that we have launched for the group. The fifth was posted late last year and is still active.

All 35 women lost loved ones to the disappearances during the conflict in Nepal (1996-2006). It is not surprising that they are still haunted by the memory. The group’s coordinator, Sarita, lost her father after he was falsely accused of Maoist sympathies by a relative. Sarita and her mother were then driven from the village. Sarita's husband died from a snakebite shortly afterwards. Poojah saw her father taken away by the army, never to return, and is still demanding an explanation - even though she is married to a soldier. Most older members of the group work in the fields for a pittance. They need justice. They also need money.

The women live in the district of Bardiya. AP began to support them through Global Giving in 2015. So far, our appeals have raised $15,735 for the cooperative from 259 generous donors, including yourself. We launched the first appeal in 2015 for three partners in Nepal, including the Bardiya cooperative, and divided the proceeds between them.

AP was set up to support community-based associations like the Bardiya cooperative that are led by determined survivors of abuse like Sarita. But we – and the women – also understand that it will take more than determination to produce sustained benefits for the group members.

And this is why they are making bags.

They began in 2016 by using embroidery to describe the disappearance of their loved ones, often in graphic detail. The following year they turned from human rights to the environment, and made squares about the tigers that live in the nearby Bardiya National Park. AP brought the squares to the US where they were assembled into three delightful quilts by Bobbi, a talented quilter from North Carolina.

The women of Bardiya then decided to go into business. They commissioned several shops in Kathmandu to turn their Tiger squares into bags, but were dissatisfied by the result. So they turned to Sarita, who made 30 sample bags at the end of 2018.

And this is where we now stand.

There is no doubt that this project has empowered these brave women. We pay $20 for each piece of embroidery, which puts money in the pockets of the women and gives them the chance to work together and learn new skills. They have shown discipline in sharing out their income at the end of the year. Helped by a new sewing machine, Sarita has become an excellent seamstress and teacher. She dreams of opening a store at the Bardiya National Park where her friends can sell tiger bags to tourists.

This dream, however, will only be realized if the group can sell bags, and this is proving difficult. We do not know why. It could be the quality of the bags, or the cost of production (which includes the $20 paid to artists), or simple competition in a country where every trekker and tourist owns a bag.

It is hard for AP to help from Washington, so we have decided that Bobbi the quilter and Iain from AP will visit Bardiya in April. Bobbi will help the women assemble their commemorative squares into an advocacy quilt to be exhibited in Nepal and the US. She will also advise Sarita on her bag-making – the first time (to our knowledge) that an American quilter has visited the Global South to provide such technical assistance. Iain will seek out markets at tourist lodges and shops in Kathmandu, help the cooperative to design a new business plan, and profile the group on the AP website. Whatever we raise on Global Giving will go to the cooperative.

AP is committed to these women and to their vision. If they can launch a successful business they could influence the national debate in Nepal over how to compensate family-members of the disappeared, which has reached an angry stalemate. But we also understand the importance of investing your donations wisely. Right now, it hangs on finding a market.

Are we on the right track? We would love to hear from you!

In the meantime, know that the ladies of Bardiya are deeply grateful for your support.

We’ll keep you posted!

The AP team

Sarita gives embroidery training in Bardiya
Sarita gives embroidery training in Bardiya
Still missing her father
Still missing her father
Peace Fellows Vicky and Kirstin (2017) in Bardiya
Peace Fellows Vicky and Kirstin (2017) in Bardiya
Bobbi is heading to Nepal to help make Tiger bags
Bobbi is heading to Nepal to help make Tiger bags
Sarita hopes to sell Tiger bags to tourists
Sarita hopes to sell Tiger bags to tourists
Puja describing her quilt square
Puja describing her quilt square

Early in June, I launched an appeal on Global Giving to fund an advocacy quilting project in rural Nepal. With your generous support, the Advocacy Project and the National Association of Families of the Missing and Disappeared in Nepal (NEFAD) were able to raise $500 to help women who lost family to enforced disappearance produce an advocacy quilt that will both bring attention to the issue of enforced disappearance as well as help provide a sustainable income for the quilters.

When Puja was about a year old, her father was disappeared. Members of Nepal’s security forces took him from their family home, and dragged him across their rice fields to take him to an army barrack. Puja drew this scene in pencil on a piece of white cloth, carefully labeling everything in English.

“This is the army barracks, where they took my father,” she explained, pointing to a small building around which she sketched in razor wire. “He was never seen again.”

Puja was too young to remember the disappearance, though she could retell the story vividly enough. She has lived her whole life with the ambiguous loss of her father, both mourning his absence and hoping for his return.

Several weeks ago, NEFAD brought together Puja and 29 other women in the Bardiya district in western Nepal to create an advocacy quilt to remember their missing relatives. Like Puja and her family, these women have spent the last fifteen years in a precarious position between grief and hope.

Because of your support, each woman was able to create an embroidered square showing her experience with enforced disappearance. Once finished, the squares will be displayed during the Day of the Disappeared event on August 30 in Kathmandu before they are sent to America to be assembled into complete quilts. Through these quilts, the women in Bardiya will speak out against the continuing injustice of their loved ones’ enforced disappearance, reaching audiences across Nepal and around the world.

In addition to advocacy, this quilting project offers a creative way to address the psychosocial and economic challenges faced by families of the missing. The women in Bardiya met once more to finish their squares, giving them an opportunity to share challenges and provide support to each other. Not only will they be paid a commission for their work on the advocacy quilt, but the skills the women learned during this project will be applied to creating future quilts, which will be sold to help them generate additional income for their families.

Please visit NEFAD’s website to learn more about the women who participated in this project, and to find out how NEFAD uses grassroots activism to support families of the disappeared and missing.

Women in Bardiya working on their quilts
Women in Bardiya working on their quilts

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Organization Information

The Advocacy Project

Location: Washington, DC - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @AdvocacyProject
Project Leader:
Iain Guest
Washington, DC United States

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Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.
   

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