Leadership training with Womankind Worldwide empowers marginalised Dalit women to achieve sustainable change within their communities
Here at UK Aid Direct, we want to mark this International Women’s Day by celebrating the work our grant holders and their partners do to support and empower women.
One specific cohort of the fund’s portfolio – those who secured Jo Cox Memorial Grants (theme 1) – dedicate their activities entirely to empowering marginalised women, to tackle complex political, social and economic disadvantages they face with new knowledge, increased confidence, and support from other women and community members.
Womankind Worldwide are working with three of their partners in Nepal — the Feminist Dalit Organization (FEDO), Women for Human Rights (WHR) and Tewa — to deliver their project entitled Participation and Voice for Excluded women (PAVE).
Women involved in PAVE face multiple levels of discrimination in their lives. Gender discrimination is widespread and is often compounded by caste-based discrimination and discrimination based on marital status. FEDO, Tewa and WHR bring their expertise together in PAVE to support marginalised women to thrive in leadership roles and influence decisions that affect their lives at district and provincial level.
This is Suna B.K, an elected Dalit Women’s Member from Bajura District.
Suna was married at 15 — which seemed normal at the time — and they struggled for money whilst her husband conducted odd jobs and labour work.
When their first child was one year old and Suna was pregnant with their second child, her husband left her for another woman, and she was forced to return to her parents’ home to raise her children alone.
Despite this beginning and facing gender and caste-based discrimination as a Dalit woman (the most discriminated against social group in the Hindu caste system) — Suna became an active political party member and four years ago became an elected woman in her district.
She feels impelled to challenge the status quo, thanks to PAVE:
“After becoming part of this project, I felt capable of becoming a better version of myself. The training especially helped polish my communications skills and pushed me to strive for my goal of advocating for the rights of my community people.
After several monthly forum sessions, I was able to find my voice as I began to feel more empowered as a political leader and stopped feeling sorry for myself for not being literate.”
Through PAVE, Suna was taught about gender-responsive budgeting; a budget that ensures gender-equitable distribution of resources and contributes to equal opportunities for all. She was able to expand her knowledge and this encouraged her to exercise her rights and roles as a political figure.
“I am actively advocating for budget allocation in my ward, and I have successfully been able to segregate budget for marginalised women’s vocational training…”
Suna now collaborates with women leaders from different organisations to build the capacity of community women and advocates for training sessions to improve their skills to earn a living and become economically independent.
She actively engages with community women’s groups in her ward formed by PAVE, and she now understands her role as a female representative, in supporting and looking out for the women in her community.
For example, she was involved in the opposition of the Chhaupadi “menstrual huts”. Chhaupadi is an ancient tradition practiced in some rural areas of Nepal. It involves banishing women and adolescent girls to mud huts or sheds while they are menstruating. Although it is illegal in the country, it is still practiced in many communities.
To ensure they were made illegal, Suna, alongside other community members and elected women, came together to destroy the huts and spread awareness of the dangers they impose to women.
And Suna’s plans for her political future?
“… I aim to continue my political journey and aspire to be a better leader. I have at least now found my voice, thanks to you all,
“I am confident to say that I want to be a Deputy Mayor…
“I want to be economically independent and motivate and guide the women in the community to do so. We have accepted that women without a husband will remain in a dire situation, but I have understood that there is another way…”
For further information about the work of Womankind Worldwide and their partners, do visit their website.