Outreach for Women and Girls in Post-Quake Nepal

by Aura Freedom International
Outreach for Women and Girls in Post-Quake Nepal
Outreach for Women and Girls in Post-Quake Nepal
Outreach for Women and Girls in Post-Quake Nepal
Outreach for Women and Girls in Post-Quake Nepal
Outreach for Women and Girls in Post-Quake Nepal
Outreach for Women and Girls in Post-Quake Nepal
Outreach for Women and Girls in Post-Quake Nepal
Outreach for Women and Girls in Post-Quake Nepal
Outreach for Women and Girls in Post-Quake Nepal
Outreach for Women and Girls in Post-Quake Nepal
Outreach for Women and Girls in Post-Quake Nepal
Outreach for Women and Girls in Post-Quake Nepal
Outreach for Women and Girls in Post-Quake Nepal
Outreach for Women and Girls in Post-Quake Nepal
Outreach for Women and Girls in Post-Quake Nepal
Outreach for Women and Girls in Post-Quake Nepal
Outreach for Women and Girls in Post-Quake Nepal
Outreach for Women and Girls in Post-Quake Nepal
Pooja - an inspiration to us and many others
Pooja - an inspiration to us and many others

Checking in with our project participants

Through regular focus group discussions, surveys, and even 1-on-1 interviews, Aura Freedom takes pride in monitoring the impact our work has on our project participants. We believe it is our responsibility to adapt project activities to suit the needs of the people we serve and strongly feel there is no other way to achieve sustainable development.

Today we'd love to share with you a success story discovered from one of our 1-on-1 interviews...a woman who faces a different type of discrimination in her community. A woman who inspires us all.

A different type of discrimination 

Although the program focuses primarily on addressing gender inequality and gender-based violence, there are also awareness sessions dedicated to anti-discrimination based on caste, social class and physical and/or mental disabilities. 

Being a physically disabled woman in Nepal is particularly challenging, as the discrimination they face as a physically disabled member of society is compounded by the inequalities they face due to their gender. They are often ostracized, stigmatized and excluded from community activities. They are also more vulnerable to sexual violence and human trafficking. Which is why we are even more blown away by the inspiring Pooja.

MEET POOJA

“This program has changed my life.”

Pooja, 28, and her family live in a remote displacement camp. She is physically disabled, and the stigma surrounding her disability has long left her isolated. With few friends and supporters, life can be challenging and she has had her share of difficult days. After losing so much in the earthquake, she became even more isolated.

But now, as she told Outreach staff, things have begun to change.

An active participant of the awareness sessions from the beginning (she never missed a class), Pooja met new people through the Outreach program. She also told us that the anti-discrimination awareness her community received has helped lift some of the stigma she had been facing.

She is also continuously learning about her rights and the services available to her. Where there was previously a gap in communication between her and the community, Pooja now feels supported by the staff and is treated better by her fellow participants. Who says change can't happen quickly? 

To us, there is no way for us to measure this type of success and the ripple effects it will have in the future. It is the reason we do what we do.

Thank you for supporting this important project and the women it serves. We couldn't do it without you.  

POOJA
POOJA
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Photo:M.Glinsbockel on assignment for Aura Freedom
Photo:M.Glinsbockel on assignment for Aura Freedom

All around the world, even in the West, talking about menstrual health is uncomfortable.

WHY?

What's with the shame? It's our biology... it's what makes us female... what makes us HUMAN. It enables women to bring life into the world, if they so choose.

If you ask us, women's menstruation should be cherished, not hidden.

Aura Freedom's Outreach, Knowledge, Change program is lifting the stigma and breaking the silence on female menstrual health, and giving young girls in Nepal the tools they need to practice good hygiene and enjoy good reproductive health.

In many Nepali communities, menstruation is shamed and hidden, making young girls feel at fault for their own biology. In extreme cases, some communities still enforce "chaupadi" a harmful cultural practice which banishes young girls to animal sheds during their menstruation, further isolating them from the community, perpetuating gender inequality, and in some cases, subjecting them to dangerous living conditions.

Our local Outreach staff host awareness sessions with young girls in rural areas to discuss menstrual and reproductive health, something that is normally taboo in Nepal. Through the sessions, they learn that their bodily functions are normal and important. Young participants are able to ask questions and speak freely about their bodies, which is so important for adolescent girls to do. 

Sanitary pads are also provided for the participants, as many cannot afford them and may use other menstruation management methods which can lead to poor hygiene and even infection.

Of course, the distribution of sanitary pads is a super useful component of the program for the class participants. However, it is the education and the KNOWLEDGE, not the pads, that make the program powerful and create lasting change.

Being able to manage mensturation also increases school attendance, which ultimately leads to a reduction in poverty and gender-based violence, which is our ultimate goal.

 

Thank you for supporting this important project!

Young participants discuss menstruation and stigma
Young participants discuss menstruation and stigma
Outreach participants receive sanitary pads.
Outreach participants receive sanitary pads.
Our dream:To see all girls live free from violence
Our dream:To see all girls live free from violence
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Shakti - Gender-Based Violence Watch Group Leader
Shakti - Gender-Based Violence Watch Group Leader

We believe a determined woman is one of the most powerful forces on earth.

 

“We should not have to bear these problems any longer – we should stand up and speak up!”

These are the empowered words of 25-year-old Shakti.

Shakti is the mother of two young children and a passionate participant of our Outreach program. As the Secretary of her community’s Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Watch Group, which is an Outreach initiative, Shakti is now a strong advocate for anti-violence and women’s rights.

She also shares much of what she is learning about GBV, gender equality, and the legal rights of women with her husband, who is beginning to talk more openly about the issues affecting their family, including violence.

We are in awe of Shakti’s strength and determination. 

The GBV Watch Group is an integral part of Aura Freedom's Outreach program. A Watch Group is formed in each of the communities we work in. Members of the group are residents of the community who show interest in GBV prevention activities and their participation is completely voluntary. The Watch Group size varies depending on the community size and the different groups within the community, but are typically comprised of 10-15 members. The criteria are that the groups have 75%-90% female participation from different age groups and ethnic backgrounds based on community demographics. The remaining 10-25% male participation is selected by the female group members themselves. When possible, an adolescent boy and girl are included in the Group.

The Watch Groups are given specific training by our staff on identifying different forms of gender-based violence, legal provisions related to GBV, and referral networks. Special emphasis is placed on risks that typically increase in the aftermath of disasters and are of particular concern in Nepal, such as human trafficking, child marriage and unsafe migration. They are also given information on gender equality and how to contribute to the dismantling of harmful gender norms. The GBV Watch Groups meet regularly and the meetings are attended by a member of project staff in order to foster better collaboration and support.

The role of the Watch Group is to monitor the security situation for women and girls in the community, address risks and challenges, and refer community members to services, if needed. The idea behind the formation of these groups is to assist project staff in attaining project objectives and to increase the sustainability of the project once the staff leaves the community. Essentially, they are community members who are educated in the rights of their community members and will go on to act as outreach volunteers for local women and girls in need.

There is nothing more sustainable than providing local communities with education and knowledge in order to respond to their own needs and issues, and the Watch Group does just that.

Some GBV Watch Group members and their little ones
Some GBV Watch Group members and their little ones
Training for some GBV Watch Group members
Training for some GBV Watch Group members
Men are also involved in our Outreach program
Men are also involved in our Outreach program
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Women attend awareness on sexual violence
Women attend awareness on sexual violence

SOMETIMES, WE HAVE TO SPEAK ABOUT THE UNSPEAKABLE IN ORDER TO CREATE CHANGE

Speaking about sexual violence is not an easy thing to do, especially in a place like Nepal where the stigma of rape is profound. Often, the stigma experienced by rape victims can be just as painful as the act itself.

However, if WE don't open up the conversation about sexual violence, who will? The women and girls we reach through our Outreach program look to us to help start conversations which will ultimately help break the cycles of violence in their communities and create lasting change. 

Aura Freedom's project addresses rape through education and awareness, including information on the rights women and girls have to report acts of rape and seek justice. A taboo and delicate topic, project staff work hard to dismantle the harmful gender norms and stigma attached to rape and marital rape.

Moreover, through our program, survivors of rape feel like they have somewhere to turn. It is not uncommon to have women and girls come forward with their own stories after our local staff provides them with education on the laws surrounding rape and the rights that the women and girls have to live free from violence. Our Outreach program also addresses men and boys so that the change is sustainable. 

MEET BANDITA, AGE 34 (photo below)

Bandita is a dedicated Outreach participant. Despite living over an hour away, she hasn’t missed a session. Bandita had never seen or heard of anything like our Outreach program. She enjoys every minute of learning about women’s rights and gender equality, as well as the harms of gender-based violence and child marriage. She is especially happy to share with her children the knowledge she has gained on sexual violence and the importance of consent.

After learning so much, Bandita feels that women can do anything. While she herself was brought up to think girls shouldn’t be educated, she now strongly believes that girls and boys are equal and deserve equal opportunities in life.

USING OUR VOICE

We are not afraid to use our voice. Breaking taboos is the only way to foster better support and access to services for survivors of violence. Thank you for supporting this important work!

 

 

Local Police inform participants of their rights
Local Police inform participants of their rights
A baby rests while her mother attends awareness
A baby rests while her mother attends awareness
A girl participates in an empowering exercise.
A girl participates in an empowering exercise.
Bandita is a passionate project participant
Bandita is a passionate project participant

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Aura Freedom’s Outreach program in Nepal puts the needs of its program participants first. One of these needs that our staff have identified is access to reproductive health and family planning education for young women. This became apparent when staff realized that many of the adolescent girls attending our awareness sessions on child marriage were already married and pregnant or nursing.

In order to address the needs of these young, economically disadvantaged mothers, Aura Freedom is distributing Mommy Kits to adolescent girls and young women who are pregnant and nursing. Designed by local staff with the help of local health experts, these kits contain life-saving items, including:

  • Bathing soap
  • Laundry soap
  • Flannel blanket
  • Towel
  • Nail clippers
  • Comb
  • Undergarments
  • Dressing gown
  • Sanitary napkins
  • Lentils and rice
  • Cloth bag

These items prove essential in ensuring the health of new mothers and their babies, and, ultimately, increase the autonomy of young mothers who lack the financial resources to properly care for their newborn children.

The Mommy Kits are distributed along with additional education:

  • Local health experts to deliver awareness sessions on sexual and reproductive health, family planning, and maternal, newborn and child health
  • Visits from local government agencies who discuss the different birth control methods available
  • Dialogue on the importance of shared decision-making in family planning and childcare – husbands were included in these conversations to facilitate improved co-parenting and address gender roles
  • Discussions on the legal rights of married women and girls

In receiving both the Mommy Kits and practical information on reproductive health, these young mothers are now equipped to properly care for their families. Not only does this empower them both as mothers and as women, it also enables them to do things differently with their own children, breaking the cycle of poverty, violence, and inequality for entire communities.

What better way to empower the future generation of youth than to empower their mothers in pregnancy and shortly after birth?

Anju (pictured below with one of her sons) is an amazing example of this empowerment.

Married as a child and a mother of two, 18-year-old Anju believes Outreach has opened up a whole new world of knowledge for her. She is learning for the first time about family planning, which she and her husband now openly discuss in their home.

As a result, the young couple are now using contraception and recognize the importance of reproductive health. Anju also remains committed to sharing her newfound knowledge with her friends and other community members, and is eager to start teaching her young sons about women’s rights and equality.

Your contributions have made this possible for Anju and for so many women like her. More kits are needed, let's continue to work together and ensure that no woman or girl in need is left behind. 

Thank you all for your continued support! 

"I was surprised to learn women also have rights..
"I was surprised to learn women also have rights..
..I thought only men did. Thank you Aura Freedom."
..I thought only men did. Thank you Aura Freedom."
A pregnant woman receives an Outreach Mommy Kit.
A pregnant woman receives an Outreach Mommy Kit.
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Organization Information

Aura Freedom International

Location: Toronto, ON - Canada
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @AuraFreedom
Project Leader:
Marissa Kokkoros
Vaughan, ON Canada

Funded Project!

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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