Visit to Sirjanshil Mahila Samaj, Goldhunga
Women in Nepal are generally seen as subordinates to men. It has never been easy for women in Nepal as it is a predominantly patriarchal society. To the north of Kathmandu, in Dharmasthali, lies a small village known as Goldhunga. The context of women living there is no different from most of the other women in Nepal. Apart from societal and cultural boundaries, the natural disaster has a greater impact on those sections of the population, in all countries, that are most reliant on natural resources for their livelihoods and/or who have the least capacity to respond natural hazards, such as droughts, landslides, and floods. Natural disasters have always brought difficult times to the community, leaving women vulnerable to gender-based violence, however, this type of violence is also linked to cultural stereotypes and a lack of knowledge on women's issues and women rights.
The 2015 Earthquake of 7.8 Richter scale affected most of the communities of Nepal. On July 2015, women in Goldhunga gathered together to have an informal discussion on relief, service and women's right. Taking this as an opportunity, volunteers of Tewa working at Dharmasthali during Shadow barefoot Volunteers Program encouraged them to form a women's group. Thus, Sirjansheel Mahila Samaj was formed. The founder came to know about Tewa through one of the volunteers and inspired by the work of Tewa as well as the work the volunteer herself is doing for the community, she in collaboration with other community women founded this organization. Unfortunately, the founder lost her life in an accident and the organization became stranded. The organization was on the verge of collapsing when Tewa got its back. Through many meetings and consultation, the organization emerged like a phoenix and is working immensely.
Sirjansheel Mahila Samaj, Goldhunga, an organization initiated in 2016 has been doing intensive work in the field of women empowerment through entrepreneurship development. With more than 75 women members, this organization is taking on the women issues of the community and empowering them by providing different entrepreneurship training on sewing, basic computer course, pickle making, and anchoring.
This organization got its first grant from Tewa in FY 2016/2017. Centering predominantly on economic empowerment for durable development of women, the group's first project on the concept of soap making has created job employment for the women in the community and these women have been able to enjoy the rights of the resources earned by their hard work.
The president of the organization says, "The earthquake on April 25, 2015, was a dark day for us but it has brought hopes in the lives of Nepali women to do something better for the community". She adds, "Women's social, economic, and political position in society makes us more vulnerable to natural hazards. We are not helpless victims. Women are important agents for change and need to be further strengthened as such. Furthermore, from the earthquake, we learned that self-reliance is the most important key factor for success. Now, Sirjansheel Mahila Samaj knows the essence of self-reliance and hence the organization is doing a small level of local fundraising following Tewa's model.”
From the learnings of Tewa, this organization started to develop community philanthropy within their community. It started with collecting unused but usable items and selling them to people at a very low price or donating them to people in need. There is much exemplary work this organization has done. They also initiated a lottery ticket program a few years ago and the funds raised through this event was later donated to support an organization of differently abled people. This organization is not only growing themselves but also helping other emerging organizations grow as well.
Apart from community philanthropy, Sirjansheel works in different sectors for empowering the community focusing mainly on women. They have been running informal classes to 25 women from their community. They have also organized free health camps and sessions on gender and violence to the women of their community. Emerging as a small organization led by a local group of women, it has advanced very swiftly in a short period of time.